‘There is a huge potential to promote tourism from India to AlUla’

The Indian consumers are always interested in experiencing new destinations, and AlUla is the newest gem in Saudi Arabia. With the pandemic still affecting travel around the world, AlUla’s vast open spaces and strict health and safety measures make it a safe and inspirational option for tourists, say Beena Menon & Huzan Fraser Motivala, India Representative, Royal Commission of AlUla in an conversation with TravelBiz Monitor.

 

Q. What makes you to embark on the first ever destination brand campaign for AlUla at this point of time for the domestic Saudi market?

The first ever destination brand campaign for AlUla, the heritage and cultural centerpiece of Saudi Arabia, was unveiled recently. The new campaign, AlUla – The World’s Masterpiece will help to achieve, Royal Commission of AlUla’s (RCU) visitor projections of 90,000 for 2021 and 130,000 for 2022. While the campaign is aimed at the domestic market, RCU expects it to have some organic reach digitally in international markets. In what is hoped will be a year of travel recovery, AlUla’s new brand campaign is aimed at deepening the Kingdom’s pride and affection for AlUla as well as ultimately increasing intention to visit.

Q. Please throw some light on AlUla and its significance for attracting tourist.

Located in the North Western region of Saudi Arabia, AlUla is home to a series of fascinating historical and archaeological sites. The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdulaziz has a vision to turn AlUla County into a living museum, creating memories that visitors will share with the world. AlUla is a place of rich natural, human and cultural heritage dating back to 200,000 years of largely unexplored human history. Here one can experience over 7,000 years of human civilisation. AlUla is undergoing a careful and sensitive restoration to ready itself for modern-day guests. The four key pillars of AlUla are Heritage, Adventure, Art & Culture and Nature. AlUla has 4 significant heritage sites – Hegra and Hijaz Railway Station, Dadan, Jabal Ikmah and the Old Town of AlUla. With a focus firmly on conservation and light-touch tourism experiences, AlUla is set to be a must-visit culture and heritage destination. AlUla’s broad range of unique outdoor adventures and activities has been inspired by the history and heritage of the region.

AlUla has a host of unique accommodation options from luxury desert resorts such Sahary and Shaden, self-catered RVs, globally renowned brands such as Banyan Tree and Aman Resorts.

AlUla is home to Winter at Tantora (WAT), an exhilarating festival which took place between December and March in 2018/2019 and 2019/2020. AlUla’s rich history was on full display during the iconic festival. Held in the Old Town of AlUla, WAT was a three-month luxury festival spanning sport, music, food, heritage, and modern art. WAT also includes experiences like hot air ballooning, vintage aircraft rides, art installations, desert polo and adventure. The highlight of the festival was the world-class musical performances such as Lionel Richie, Enrique, Andrea Bocelli and Yanni.

Beena Menon, India Representative, Royal Commission of AlUla

Q. When can we expect a similar campaign to be rolled out for the Indian market?

When the time is right and borders open, we will look at launching a campaign for the Indian market to create awareness and promote the destination.

Q. In terms of trade and media outreach, what are some of the activities chalked out?

AlUla offers an exciting cultural, artistic journey with its rich archaeology and heritage that form an important aspect of its character. Being a new destination in the market and given the backdrop of the pandemic, we will work closely with travel trade to create awareness and interest in AlUla, and drive visitation. We will work with the trade to promote AlUla and develop stand-alone itineraries as well as itineraries combined with other destinations in the region. We will conduct trainings, organise webinars and participate in key travel trade shows in India. Once the borders open we will implement roadshows, travel trade familiarisation and joint promotions with leading travel agencies, which will be critical to AlUla’s success in the market.

Through our marketing outreach programme, we aim to tie up with leading publications, have a robust media familiarisation trip programme and create bespoke media events. Our Marcom programme will also include working with a content creator/celebrity/influencer for a digital influencer programme to harness the power of an influential celebrity to launch and promote AlUla. We will also invest in a social media campaign across prominent channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to showcase our iconic attractions and special promotions. Our consumer promotions will include tying up with prestigious global brands to create awareness of the key offerings of AlUla.

Huzan Fraser Motivala, India Representative, Royal Commission of AlUla

Q. Saudi Arabia is a relatively new market for tourism. How aggressive is your approach going to be?

The RCU has driven forward efforts to develop AlUla into a pre-eminent global tourist destination since 2017, and in the process is becoming a sector leader in the tourism pillar of Saudi Vision 2030. RCU has demonstrated its pedigree by unlocking the potential of AlUla as a high-profile emerging tourist destination in Saudi Arabia. AlUla aims to attract 2 million visits, resulting in SAR 120 billion in cumulative GDP impact and 38,000 jobs by 2035. AlUla is the first of the significant Saudi Vision 2030 initiatives to welcome visitors, having re-opened key heritage sites to visitors in October 2020 as a new year-round destination.

 

Q. How optimistic are you about the Indian market? Which cities are on your radar?

Beautiful Planet Destination Marketing has been appointed by RCU as their India Representative to handle the Marcom and travel trade activities, and launch and promote the destination in India. AlUla is a place of extraordinary human and natural heritage. AlUla is a new destination and home to several well-preserved heritage sites that lend themselves to immersive travel. AlUla has a geographical advantage being in close proximity to tourist destinations such as Jordan, Turkey and Dubai, and therefore agents can combine AlUla while visiting any of these destinations. We expect as soon as borders open, AlUla will be an interesting holiday destination to explore. AlUla is a living, breathing, open-air museum, full of awe-inspiring heritage sites and natural wonders, as well as endless ways to explore. There is a great potential to promote tourism from India to AlUla. The Indian consumers are always interested in experience new destinations and AlUla is the newest gem in Saudi Arabia. With the pandemic still affecting travel around the world, AlUla’s vast open spaces and strict health and safety measures make it a safe and inspirational option for tourists. AlUla’s heritage sites are now open as a year-round experience. For soft adventure enthusiast, AlUla has adventure activities like hot air balloon, cycling, hiking, ziplining, one can also go on vintage aircraft rides.

Besides the leisure traveller, AlUla will be a perfect destination for MICE travellers. Maraya is a world-class entertainment and conferences venue. It is one of the world’s architectural wonders; a total of 9,740 square meters of mirrors covers the exterior walls of the cube-shaped structure reflecting the desert surroundings of AlUla. AlUla will be a perfect place for destination weddings. AlUla has amazing resorts to host unique destination weddings.

Short flying time and easy connections to major cities of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to Indian cities with Indian carriers such as Air India, IndiGo and SpiceJet will be an advantage. We will be looking at Tier-I cities including Mumbai and Delhi; Tier-II cities like Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, Kochi. Saudi Arabia is the spiritual birthplace of Islam, and India being a country with the second largest Islamic population in the world, we will be targeting cities with high concentration for Umrah. Pilgrimage travellers can extend their stay in AlUla and club religious tour with leisure experience.

Q. Which are the countries currently on your radar for AlUla?

AlUla has opened its offices for tourism across the world in the USA, Asia, EU, Australia and China. We will be working very closely with the Saudi Tourism Authority to promote AlUla which will be the hero product for Saudi Arabia.

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