Tourism officials in Saudi Arabia have showcased the AlUla development during the Bench Events-organised Hospitality Tomorrow tradeshow.
Described by authorities as an undiscovered wonder of the world, AlUla is a living museum of preserved tombs, sandstone outcrops, historic dwellings and monuments.
Both natural and human-made, the location holds 200,000 years of largely unexplored history.
Irina Bokova, advisory board member for the royal commission for AlUla, said: “AlUla is a cultural melting-pot, but there is a jewel, Hegra, a UNESCO-recognise World Heritage site.
“The first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, it was declared in 2009.”
She added: “This location is this beginning of a journey for tourism in Saudi Arabia; we are on a journey of conservation, development and, eventually, presentation.”
Located in north-western Saudi Arabia, AlUla is set in a valley with palm groves running through its centre and sandstone cliffs surrounding.
An area the size of Belgium, the site is accessible by road, as well as thrice-weekly flights from Jeddah and Riyadh.
A former director-general of UNESCO, Bokova added: “We are keen to develop the integrity of the site, this is beauty of the project, reconciling the history of the site with modernity.
“While we look at the past, we must also consider the future – this is a place that belongs to the whole of humanity.
“The local community will also be part of this, and they will be key to the journey.”
Phillip Jones, chief destination marketing officer at the royal commission for AlUla, explained the project is part of an ambition to diversify Saudi Arabia away from oil and toward a hospitality-led economy.
He added: “This is an amazing opportunity to create a new destination, to reposition tourism in Saudi Arabia.
“A lot of the groundwork has been done, and now we are developing this site.
“We have a deal in place with Aman Resorts, Hotels & Residences for a new property, while the events spaces are opening.”
He concluded: “We have been welcoming global performers, making this location even more appealing.
“We have great assets, great people to work with, and this will be a key element of Vision 2030.”
Vision 2030, led by the Public Investment Fund of Saudi Arabia, is a scheme designed to develop the hospitality sector in the country as it tries to reduce its reliance on oil.
Powered by Bench Events, Hospitality Tomorrow was launched to support the hard-hit international hotel community during Covid-19, by offering a virtual conference platform that provides knowledge, facilitates information sharing and connects the industry.