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Saudi Arabia’s AlUla welcomed over 146,000 visitors in 2021 alone

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Saudi Arabia’s ancient city of AlUla welcomed 146,000 visitors in 2021, Executive Director of Destination Marketing for the Royal Commission of AlUla Melanie De Souza told Al Arabiya English on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market exhibition in Dubai on Tuesday.

“146,000 visitors is what we did in 2021, which far exceeded our targets and it’s great to see that there is a tremendous response not just to what is at our core heritage destination, but a tremendous take-up of our concerts,” she told Al Arabiya English.

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De Souza said she expects more visitors throughout 2022 in line with airline and hotel capacity growth in the city.

This image released on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019 shows a scene during the 2019 AlUla Balloon Festival part of Winter at Tantora in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. (File photo: AP)
This image released on Friday, Feb. 8, 2019 shows a scene during the 2019 AlUla Balloon Festival part of Winter at Tantora in Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia. (File photo: AP)

“[We expect the number of visitors] will increase in sync with airline capacity growth and hotel capacity growth,” she said.

“Since AlUla opened up as a year-round destination in October 2020, we’ve had such fabulous take-up from both our tour operators and our media partners and it’s terrific to be at ATM to re-engage with these critical people in the supply chain,” De Souza added.

AlUla, which is over 200 thousand years old, is emerging as one of the region’s new up-and-coming destinations, attracting travelers from all over the world. After officially opening up to the world just last year, it has since expanded its flight services, partnering with various local and international airlines to secure flight routes to the area.

In addition, the Royal Commission hosted the inaugural ‘AlUla Moments’ festival, which featured a wide range of tourism offerings, from art and culture to sports.

“We’ve had a prolific event calendar response including our amazing fine dining experiences and a lot of our adventure and nature-based activities which is such a draw card because home to AlUla are the most spectacular landscapes,” the director added.

Executive Director of Destination Marketing for the Royal Commission of AlUla, Melanie De Souza at Arabian Travel Market 2022.
Executive Director of Destination Marketing for the Royal Commission of AlUla, Melanie De Souza at Arabian Travel Market 2022.

“The north Arabian Kingdoms, which the world doesn’t know much about and which is redefining what we know about humanity, is absolutely for draw card,” she said, adding that AlUla is a place of rich cultural heritage, home to UENSCO World Heritage Site Hegra, featuring “spectacular landscapes, with this juxtaposition of rocky outcrops with what is a green spine oasis and palm trees.”

Future plans

The Banyan Tree AlUla is nestled against sky-high rock formations in a valley, the resort blends into the sands that surround it with views from each of its one, two and three-bedroom pool villas. (Supplied)
The Banyan Tree AlUla is nestled against sky-high rock formations in a valley, the resort blends into the sands that surround it with views from each of its one, two and three-bedroom pool villas. (Supplied)

When asked about the city’s future plans, she said that the Royal Commission will soon launch the calendar for AlUla Moments 2023, which will be “premised on the same themes in terms of the four festivals that we had last year, celebrating skies, wellness, ‘Winter at Tantora’ which is the best of the best, and the AlUla Arts Festival,” De Souza explained.

She added that they will soon launch the opening of the Banyan Tree Hotel in October this year, featuring tented accommodation and villas in a canyon as well as a 30-room eco-resort hotel in the Old Town, a mud-brick village which was “continuously and previously occupied for 900 years until as recently as 40 years ago.”

“We know that there are concerted efforts to get a lot of tourism off the ground in Saudi, and we are excited to work with partners like the Red Sea [Project] and Amaala… AlUla is the crown jewel for the tourism offering in Saudi, based as we are in the northwest of Saudi Arabia and we are really the only giga project that has actually got runs on the board with a year-round offering.”

Read more:

Saudi Red Sea Project will open to visitors in 2023, showing new side of the Kingdom

‘AlUla Moments’ features immersive art experiences, eco-trail run, and more

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