Exploring Al Ula’s tourism potential

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) gave a global audience of over 2,500 industry leaders and stakeholders insight into AlUla’s journey to become an international tourism destination with arts, culture and community at its heart at a recent webinar hosted by bench events.

The panel, titled “Arts and Culture: Inspiring a future of tourism development in ancient landscapes,” saw a team from RCU join former Director-General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova; Jean-François Charnier, Scientific Director at Agence Française pour le Développement d’AlUla (AFALULA); Neville Wakefield, Creator and Artistic Director at
Desert X; and Callum Lee of BOP Consulting.

The audience learned about RCU’s goal to contribute towards the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 programme by creating 38,000 jobs, contributing SAR 120 billion to Saudi GDP, and hosting two million annual visits, all while protecting and preserving AlUla’s history and cultural heritage. This discussion was part of Hospitality Tomorrow’s wider efforts to facilitate conversations among industry leaders and stakeholders on accelerating the momentum for recovery, in part by making the connections needed to build the understanding, relationships, unity and actionable ways to support the industry’s recovery

During the panel, Abdulrahman AlSuhaibani, Director of Museums and Exhibitions at RCU, who conducted research into AlUla’s ancient civilisations as part of his doctorate at the Sorbonne University in France, said, “For me, AlUla means the past, the present, and the future. It is an exceptional place. The human presence in AlUla began more than 200,000 years ago and continues until our time. This has left a diversity and richness in the archaeological remains, and also in the community today.”

The cultural development of AlUla is guided by a Cultural Manifesto created to guide the sensitive and sustainable growth of the town, along with its partnerships with global hospitality brands to develop hospitality infrastructure in harmony with AlUla’s unique natural and human heritage.

The panel also discussed the energising role played by the arts in both the development of AlUla and in engaging the local community. Nora AlDabal, Arts and Culture Programming Director at RCU, said, “It’s really important to us to establish AlUla as a cultural hub for creativity and artistic exchange. We’ve developed multiple arts workshops, including with Desert X: We had the artists work not only on the exhibition itself but also within the community. So, the community was really part of this experience.”

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