Heritage city targets 250k visitors this year

The past few years have placed the Royal Commission of Al Ula on the map of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia boasting different activities and experiences for guests from across the globe. The wow factor of the destination amazes every traveller.  Phillip Jones Chief Destination Management and Marketing Officer, The Royal Commission of Al Ula, shares with TRAVTALK their plans for this year and a further 10 years.

Shehara Rizly

How important is ATM this year for The Royal Commission of Al Ula and what will you showcase?

ATM is a significant event for the Royal Commission for AlUla, and for many organisations worldwide. It offers a unique opportunity to showcase our destination to a sizeable group of stakeholders, partners, and the media. Arabian Travel Market (ATM) also enables those in the tourism industry to keep up to date with the latest trends and to effortlessly network with a wide range of people. From a destination perspective, ATM is a platform for us to connect with and learn from travel industry professionals and explain the vision and goals of the RCU, which is to share our ancient city with the world. AlUla has seen exceptional growth over the past year, so we are excited to share the latest developments and highlight the range of activities and experiences that visitors can enjoy. We will also be revealing new details about upcoming world-class luxury resorts and hotels, expanded flight routes, and events that people can look forward to soon.

What are the objectives and expectations from this year’s Arabia Travel Market as you have many offerings at AlUla for visitors?

The objectives are to connect with the most relevant travel and tourism stakeholders from the region who share the same values as RCU to showcase our destination of AlUla, which is home to over 200,000 years of human history and showcase it as an ideal location for discerning travellers seeking boutique and luxury experiences. We are confident we will be able to reinforce our position among travel industry professionals and consumers as the region is the leading destination for heritage, nature, arts and culture, and adventure among others.

How important is the travel trade for the ancient city of AlUla?

RCU’s growth as a destination is reliant on a variety of factors, one of which is our relationship with tour operators, travel agents and industry professionals. We have made it a priority to work closely with the travel trade and create opportunities for collaboration and learning, such as through the online portal ‘AlUla Specialist’, our international agent training programme and trade information hub.

Do you work with agents from the region to spread the word, and incentivise them?

We do work with the travel agents from the region to share the most relevant and up to date information about the city with 200 year old history with domestic consumers, who are a key priority for us. To familiarize agents and encourage them to get the word out about RCU, we offer family visits to the destination, training website, along with incentive program managed by our representative offices in the region.

Flights started off to AlUla some time ago, will there be new flights this year? If so, which are the destinations?

There are strategic plans in the pipeline to enhance and increase flights between AlUla and international destinations, in line with our goal to position the city as a regional touristic spot open to all. One of the new destinations will be for the launch of a direct flight from Amman on Royal Jordanian starting in October 2023.

Would you share some of the strategies that you will utilise to get more visitors to AlUla?

The heritage city is considered one of the last untouched tourist destinations in the world, which makes it extremely attractive to intrepid explorers who are in search of something new. That already adds great value to RCU as a destination, however, we are also engaging in campaigns and collaborations and constantly developing new and engaging experiences for visitors.

AlUla used to be a popular winter destination in the past with many events and festivals, will you
be initiating more events in the destination?

Currently, we have events and festivals all year round as part of AlUla Moments calendar of events and festivals, including the flagship Winter at Tantora Festival that came in its fourth edition this past December/January to celebrate the culture, heritage, and music of AlUla.

Will it be right to say that AlUla is a year-round destination?

While there are seasons that might traditionally be busier, there is still plenty to see and do in AlUla throughout the year, such as adventure activities, fine dining, nature trails and more.

There were some accommodation facilities announced earlier in RCU, how is it now? Is there an increase in hotel rooms?

There has been an increase in hotel rooms in RCU in recent years as we now offer a wider range of accommodations, including luxury resorts, eco-lodges, and camping experiences. There is more to come, as we strengthen relationships with top hospitality brands.

What are the expected visitor numbers this year?

RCU is targeting 250,000 tourists and visitors in 2023, with an eye on our overarching goal for 2035 of two million visitors.

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