An average tourist in Saudi Arabia’s heritage town of AlUla spends $560 (SAR 2100) per day and stays for three days on average, a senior member of the Royal Commission of AlUla (RCU) told Al Arabiya English on Friday.
The Vice President of Destination Marketing and Management from the RCU, Rami Almoallim, said there was an increase in the number of tourists visiting the oasis valley, nestled amidst mountains over 1,000 kilometers from the capital city of Riyadh.
Speaking on the sidelines of the Azimuth music festival, Almoallim said the town seeks to attract local, regional and international travelers, adding that their “main target is the wanderlust nomad, the intrepid voyagers, the free-spirited people and the luxury seekers who come from around the globe.”
After Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman launched mega tourist projects in 2019 following the setting up of the RCU in 2017, the previously sleepy, primarily local town was pushed into the spotlight.
Tourist sites in AlUla
AlUla is home to the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site Hegra, a site with well-preserved tombs that was once part of the Nabataean city from the end of the first millennium BCE into the first millennium CE.
The city now has an airport serviced by flydubai, connecting the UAE financial hub twice weekly, and domestic flights by Saudia airline and flynas from Riyadh, Jeddah, and Damman. It has various stay options, from luxury wellness resorts like Habitas and Banyan Tree to glamping with 26 North.
“I would foresee four to five days is really good to visit the heritage sites, to have some experiences; for those who love adventure, they can enjoy all activities in these beautiful canyons. For people who love food and beverages, there are some offerings from really distinguished international brands,” Almoallim said when asked about the optimal time to spend in AlUla.
In addition to Hegra, some must-see sights include Maraya, an art installation adorned by massive mirrors; AlUla Old Town, a labyrinth of tightly packed streets towered by hundreds of mudbrick houses and a mighty fort; and Elephant Rock, a natural geological formation in the shape of the mammoth.
Various viewpoints, oasis trails and museums like the Hejaz Railway Station – one of the oldest known rail networks in the Middle East – round up the AlUla sights to see.
Additionally, star gazing points and activities including hiking, biking and ziplining are available for visitors seeking adventure and nature-oriented experiences.
AlUla airport expansion
To keep up with the increasing yearly influx of tourists, Almoallim said that the purpose-built local airport will expand in size and connectivity. In addition to the seasonal flight from Paris, Cairo is next in line to be added to the roster.
While tourism is a principal driver of AlUla’s economy, in line with Saudi Arabia’s larger plans to wane off its reliance on oil income, Almoallim is confident about the RCU’s ability to preserve the identity and culture of the ancient city.
“Culture and heritage [sit] in the heart of the Royal Commission of AlUla’s mandate,” Almoallim said.
“We have complete departments and sectors that look after how to preserve this, how to showcase it to the world. We build our events and experiences on that rich culture and history of AlUla.”
“We do connect the experiences of AlUla and the people who come and visit AlUla, with the culture. Basically, we find the connection in between the experience,” the RCU official said, giving the Azimuth music festival as an example of connecting arts, culture and music with the oasis valley.
Titled AlUla Moments, the RCU has planned numerous events including a wellness festival and desert polo to take place until April.