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What is the economic impact of the Fursan Cup 2022?

The staging of The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022 is drawing near. Abdulrahman M AlSuwaidan, Director of Special Initiatives for the Royal Commission for AlUla, outlines how the Endurance Ride – staged on Saturday, January 29 in AlUla, Saudi Arabia – is part of a larger, long-term program which has huge potential in terms of boosting the region’s economy.

Abdulrahman M AlSuwaidan, Director of Special Initiatives for the Royal Commission for AlUla

Can you give an overview of AlUla’s long-term strategy with hosting equestrian events and the economic impact you hope to create?

There’s a long standing bond between horses and AlUla’s heritage as shown on the carvings of its rocks, and we’re working on preserving this cultural heritage. There’s a passionate ambition to develop the equestrian sector as one of the sustainable sectors economically in AlUla, to make it ‘the capital’ of equestrian activities in the region, with different sports, trips, tourist trails and equestrian related events.

Along with our partners from the public and private sectors in addition to the French Agency for AlUla Development (AFALULA), we’re focusing on 3 main pillars:

  • Pillar (1): Equestrian sector development
  • Pillar (2): Equestrian sector governance and supervision
  • Pillar (3): Equestrian assets and events development manager

Our commitment in developing the sector with the highest global standards is a clear sign of our ambition in making AlUla an international destination for equestrianism. 

On Saturday, January 29, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Endurance Cup 2022 will take place. It is an international CEI2*120km endurance competition organised under the supervision of  the Saudi Arabian Equestrian Federation (SAEF). The competition will take place with over 200 riders from more than 30 different countries competing for 15 million Saudi riyals (USD $4.2 million).

Then, on February 11-12, at a purpose-built arena, we will be hosting four teams of invited patrons and professional players from the world of polo to compete in the Richard Mille AlUla Desert Polo. Both of these upcoming events will offer us the opportunity to showcase AlUla through these two great sports, as well as provide the platform to showcase our vision for its future.

Recent years have seen AlUla stage international endurance rides and a polo event – what have been the positive economic impacts?

There have been many ways that investment has gone into the local economy. 200 riders from 30 different countries around the world, plus 1,600 crew members and staff will take part in the Fursan Cup 2022. This has reflected positively on AlUla’s economy and its different construction, hospitality, catering, logistic and operation sectors.

The event also helps in creating plenty of opportunities for local staff to be hired in many different areas such as security, crowd management, ushering duties and team organization. More than 250 of AlUla’s young men and women have been employed to organize the event.

Where do you believe there’s more opportunity?

We aim to create a sustainable sector from an economic point of view, to work closely with the different authorities and sports federations related to equestrianism. There is a strong ambition to host future FEI Endurance World Championships in different categories. If that were to happen, there would be a great opportunity across many areas for the local economy.

There is a real passion for the sport globally and to stage such an event would require a rock-solid infrastructure. That is why a lot of our core objectives at present are focused on best practice in terms of animal welfare and all-round competition organisation. It is about capability building. High standards and the pursuit of excellence.

In terms of delivering opportunities to the local communities, creating skilled jobs for people will be very important in the development of AlUla as a must-visit destination. There is a real heritage link between horses and the people from this region. Through the centuries, their skills as fine horsemen have been recognised. Indeed, there are ancient petroglyphs in AlUla that illustrate the longstanding relationship humans have had with horses. The creation of the equestrian sector at AlUla will write a further chapter in the story of what is an enduring alliance. By 2035, the aim is have created 500 jobs, including 250 direct jobs. 

AlUla’s equestrian sector is a key pillar of what is a longer term strategy to share with the world the monumental beauty of AlUla as a place that is unique in the Arabian Peninsula, and perfect for exploring on horseback. The RCU vision includes significant infrastructure and facilities, more riding trails and itineraries for visitors to immerse themselves in the majesty of the cultural landscape.

From a tourism perspective, which are the key markets you’re focused on?

AlUla is first and foremost a heritage and culture destination with globally significant heritage sites like the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra, the ancient city of Dadan, Jabal Ikmah, AlUla Old Town and natural sites and reserves such as Sharaan Reserve. We are developing equestrian-related tourism experiences for the visitors in these sites to enrich the cultural scene and enjoy this ancient history. We know there is a large equestrian-related sector that successfully attracts tourists year on year in the US. There is a strong cultural attachment to the horse also in parts of the United Kingdom, France, Italy and other European countries – as there is in AlUla.


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