Phillip Jones, Chief Destination Marketing and Management Officer, Royal Commission for AlUla, said that local community in Saudi Arabia’s north-western city of AlUla is being engaged in the journey of development through training and jobs.
“We are bringing the local community along the journey with us because it doesn’t make sense to come in and superimpose a destination on top of a local community. It has to be a partnership,” Jones told the Egyptian Gazette.
He added that they are also training up a lot of local employees for jobs in the hospitality industry.
“We’re opening language schools so we can train people in five languages so they can service the visitors. So we’re trying to do everything the right way, plan properly, and then implement accordingly,” he said.
The people who live in AlUla are primarily local farmers or owners of small businesses.
“Most of the people in the industry have been doing farming and agriculture. So they do aid farming, citrus farming in the winter or have small businesses,” Jones said.
He added that the development projects in AlUla is opening new opportunities for the local community in the tourism industry.
“Also, you can see a lot of women-owned businesses opening up across the city to provide services to visitors,” Jones said.
Jones also said that AlUla project is now at the end of phase one, which was 2018 through 2023. So by 2023, there will roughly be 1000 hotel rooms and 20 restaurants and at least 20 new assets attractions across the destination.
AlUla now has 600 hotel rooms and hopes to have 2000 hotel rooms by the end of 2025-2026.
Investments put in the project are now standing at $8 billion, Jones said, adding that “we have another 25 to 27 billion to go”. So, ultimately the project will be about $35 billion, he said.
About 60% of AlUla’s visitors are from Saudi Arabia because it is an unknown destination within Saudi Arabia, according to Jones.
Moreover, about 12% are from the region and about 25% are from the United States, France, Germany, UK, Italy and Australia.
Jones said that they will be adding more emphasis on India because there’s huge potential in India.
“Then, we’ll continue to focus on the US market, the European market, and then looking at adding maybe Japan and Korea markets.”