Being one of the most recent entrants in the global tourism offerings, AlUla, a natural heritage destination in Saudi Arabia is all set to tap the Indian outbound potential. In the last one year, the destination has aggressively promoted its unique offering to Indian market. With India being the home to the second largest Muslim population, the destination is now looking tap the Umrah segment and promote AlUla as an extension to an Umrah tour.
Speaking about the India market, Beena Menon, India Representative, Royal Commission for AlUla, said, “India is a very important and big source market for AlUla. We believe it will attract a large number of travellers for leisure and MICE. AlUla is a place of extraordinary human and natural heritage. Located in northwest of Saudi Arabia, AlUla is certainly a new destination for Indian travellers. AlUla is a rich heritage and art & cultural destination for affluent travellers. We expect as soon as the borders open, AlUla will be an interesting destination to explore due to the vast open spaces, natural beauty, outstanding landscape, and highest standard of visitor experience.”
Speaking about the potential segment, Menon said, “India has the second largest Muslim population in the world and is the third largest market for Umrah. We will leverage the strong affinity and connection that Indian Muslims have for Saudi Arabia. Besides the high value leisure travellers, we will tap the Umrah segment and promote AlUla as an extension to an Umrah tour. We are bullish about AlUla and see great potential to promote tourism to AlUla from India.”
The destination is also seamlessly connected to all the major Indian cities. Pre-pandemic Saudia operated 68 flights a week from various cities in India. Also, travellers can explore the destination with self-drive options from all major cities in Saudi Arabia.
Speaking about the connectivity, Menon said, “The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has great flight connections from Indian cities. Besides Saudia, Air India, Spice Jet, Indigo, Oman Air, Emirates, Etihad were also well connected from India to Saudia Arabia. There are 4 weekly flights from Riyadh and 2 weekly flights from Jeddah to AlUla. These are short distance flights being operated by Saudia. AlUla international airport is located around 35 kms southeast of AlUla. Private jets and international charters can also land at AlUla international airport.”
She further added, “AlUla has a great self-drive option to AlUla from major cities in Saudi Arabia and also within AlUla. AlUla is a 10-hour drive from Riyadh, 7-hour drive from Jeddah, 3.5-hours drive from Medina. It is also only a 2.5-hours drive to the Red Sea which visitors can add on to their trip.”
The destination also offers various adventure activities besides its cultural and heritage offerings. In terms of travellers’ profile, the destination is looking to tap both leisure and MICE markets.
Menon said, “AlUla is a destination for leisure and MICE travel. As far leisure is concerned it is an ideal destination for family, adventure seekers, couples, and honeymooners. AlUla’s vast open landscapes provide the perfect backdrop for great outdoor activities like zipline, hiking trails, cycling trails, a bike park, and horse treks. There is something to do every day, and night in AlUla. Extraordinary sand stones in remote desert land create some of the world’s most enviable dark skies, making AlUla an idyllic locale for stargazing.”
In terms of MICE offerings, AlUla is home to Maraya, the world’s largest mirrored building according to Guinness World Records.
She added, “AlUla is a great destination for MICE travel and boasts of a state-of-the-art multi-purpose conference and entertainment venue, Maraya. A glass structure covered in mirrored panels reflecting AlUla’s beauty.”
The destination also offers a range of accommodation for every kind of traveller. Also, it is an ideal destination for the luxury market with the development of various high-end hotels with luxury spas and gourmet restaurants. In addition, there are many new hotels scheduled to open to keep up with the demand that is expected once the borders open and flights resume.
Menon added, “Five-star luxury brand Habitas will open an eco-friendly luxury accommodation in the Ashar Valley by September 2021. The resort has been designed to blend with the landscape and will immerse the guest in the environment, heritage and people of the AlUla region, through a variety of culturally engaging, authentic experiences. International hotel brands like Aman Resorts, Four Seasons are in the pipeline and expected to open in the couple of years. The famous French architect Jean Nouvel will be opening Sharaan by Jean Nouvel by 2023.”