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DUBAI: Saudi Arabia’s recently announced $ 15 billion master plan for the development of AlUla will mean the arrival of some of the world’s most famous hotel groups in the governorate, with hospitality identified as an area key investment in the plan.
“The Journey Through Time Masterplan” – the first in a series of plans for the development of AlUla, which the Royal Commission of Inquiry for AlUla (RCU) released on April 7 – will include 5,000 hotel rooms, with 1,000 rooms ready for use by 2023 and a total target of 9,400 rooms by 2035 as part of a broader development strategy for AlUla.
The master plan covers the main heritage area of AlUla and is implemented in three phases until 2035, with the first phase to be completed by 2023.
The total cost of development will be estimated at RS 57 billion ($ 15 billion), of which RS 12 billion ($ 3.2 billion) is for primary infrastructure.
“Through Journey Through Time’s master plan, we are developing AlUla’s potential as a destination, a global cultural asset as well as a significant investment,” Wessam Lubbard, Royal Commission CFO for AlUla, told Arab News.
“The master plan presents various investment opportunities in several asset classes such as flagship cultural projects, social infrastructure, public services and mobility, hospitality, commercial and residential projects,” he said. he declares. “Additionally, we have minimized all future investments by committing our $ 2 billion seed funding to critical projects at AlUla.”
URC believes that hospitality is one of the main areas where AlUla’s potential can shine and where partnerships and projects are growing at a rapid pace. It is also a sector that can greatly contribute to Saudi Vision 2030 through sustainable growth within the local community.
“We want our hospitality offerings to faithfully reflect the welcoming and warm culture of the local community, rooted in respect for history and nature,” said Philip Jones, Director of Destination Management and Marketing for RCU, to Arab News.
Hotels that already have a presence in AlUla, or are in the process of building there, include Accor / Banyan Tree, Aman and Habitas. The RCU expects more names to be added to this list soon.
Aman is known for its exclusive properties, many of which are located off the beaten track in exotic destinations, while others can be found in some of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, such as New York and Tokyo.
Aman’s AlUla Hegra Resort, due for completion in late 2023, will be located in a secluded mountain valley in AlUla’s Nabataean Horizon district, near the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hegra. It will include 40 luxury villas, a discovery center, a partially carved out rock library, an underground spa and a multi-level organic orchard celebrating the natural landscape.
“Our partners, including Habitas and Aman, as well as famous architect Jean Nouvel, have radically different styles but one thing in common: an immersive approach to each destination,” Jones said. “By partnering with world-class brands that understand our landscape, we are creating a destination that puts the visitor experience, as well as the local culture, at the forefront.”
Another important entry to AlUla is the eco-friendly luxury resort chain Habitas. The brand, with a flagship location in Tulum, Mexico, is building a 100-room property in the desert canyons of AlUla’s Ashar Valley that will incorporate local influences through its music, spa therapies and even yoga sessions focused on astronomy. Importantly, the modular development of the station will also result in minimal ecological impact.
Banyan Tree, managed by Accor, is expanding its existing Ashar complex in partnership with RCU in the Nabatean Horizon district of AlUla. The resort will add 47 new villas, bringing its total to 82, in addition to several new restaurants and a spa. The resort design is carefully crafted to complement the striking natural scenery of the Ashar Valley, located 15 kilometers from Hegra.
Another fine example of RCU’s dedication and investment in AlUla’s heritage through tourism and hospitality is the construction of the first property of its kind by the great architectural firm Atelier Jean Nouvel, which was also responsible for the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.
The building aims to revive the 2000-year-old architectural heritage of the ancient Nabataeans, bringing to life an important part of AlUla’s past in a contemporary structure that takes into account the surrounding ancient rock formations through its architecture and design. designed with sensitivity.
Investment in AlUla’s heritage assets and primary infrastructure is of paramount importance to RCU. It has already spent $ 2 billion on development projects, including the expansion of AlUla International Airport and the improvement of security infrastructure, as well as the development of key tourism assets, including the area of Ashar and the Maraya.
The Maraya, a multi-purpose venue that serves as a concert hall and is the largest mirrored building in the world, is also home to the Ashar Valley. Within its mirrored walls, artists like Andrea Bocelli, Lionel Richie and Lang Lang all performed during the Winter at Tantora Cultural Festival. The venue is also suitable for large-scale meetings and conferences and hosted the 41st GCC summit in January 2021, which brought together leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council.