Discussed ways of developing a sustainable tourism destination from scratch, using the Saudi Arabian city of Alula as an example.
Phillip Jones, Chief Destination Marketing and Management Officer, Royal Commission for Alula explained that the city is a UNESCO world heritage site that was veiled for many years.
Jones presented Alula as a world’s masterpiece with a population of 45000. He explained the methods used to apply a sustainable model on the construction of its tourist factors, such as hotels, restaurants, and halls, “every hotel fits into the natural environment, nothing is built out of this context. It has to fit into the natural environment”, he said.
Describing the construction and evolvement process, he noted that quality was favored over quantity, in the sense that the number of visitors will be controlled, with a focus on four pillars: art and culture, luxury and quality, adventure, as well as the local and authentic aspect of the city.
Alula now has five hotels, 20 restaurants, and a new airport with direct flights to Paris, Cairo, and Riyadh, among others. It also has a cultural center called Maraya- meaning mirrors in Arabic, which hosts musical and cultural events and fits 500 people only.
The target introduced is to attract 1.2M visitors by 2035 and increase it from the current number of visitors of 180,000, with a focus on 53% national visitors, 37% international visitors, and 100% regional visitors.
Jones finally highlighted the unique landscape of Alula, considering it an untapped tourism opportunity, while the main challenges remain in his opinion to educate the local community about the theme of sustainability and change the existing perception of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.