In association with: AlUla
Claire Golding, UK director for AlUla, shares some insight into this destination, from key facts about currency and language to how best to sell this region of Saudi Arabia to your customers
Q: What can visitors expect from a trip to AlUla? What activities are on offer and what must-see places should they visit?
A: The key thing about AlUla is its natural, unspoilt natural beauty. Improbable landscapes sit alongside heritage sites that speak of 200,000 years of human history, sweeping deserts and lush green oases.
There are so many activities for visitors to enjoy – all of which fully immerse them into these landscapes. There’s a wide range of trails for walking, hiking, cycling and horse riding, as well as four key heritage sites – AlUla Old Town, Dadan, Jabal Ikmah and Hegra – to explore.
Visitors should also make time to simply relax, whether that be in their choice of five-star accommodation or in one of the excellent choice of restaurants that serve dishes made with local fresh produce.
Q: What sets AlUla apart from other regions in Saudi Arabia?
A: There are many things that make AlUla a unique destination. The region boasts breathtaking, untouched landscapes in the form of sandstone canyons, green oases and towering mountains. Plus, five fascinating civilisations have lived here successively over 3,000 years, including the Nabataeans, whose most predominant settlement was in Petra. Predating the Nabataeans, the Dadanites and Lihyanites also called AlUla home, helping to build the rich history that is unravelling today.
Q: What types of customers should agents sell AlUla to?
A: This is a unique, boutique destination that appeals to the more discerning, luxury customer. Couples are well-suited to AlUla, given the growing choice of relaxing five-star accommodation on offer, but it’s also ideal for customers looking for exploration, adventure, a rich history and cultural heritage, and for something new and previously undiscovered.
Q: What is the most important tip you would give to agents for selling AlUla?
A: I would recommend that agents reinforce just how rewarding a trip to AlUla would be. It is truly a destination that will surprise travellers – it challenges perceptions, and will no doubt exceed your clients’ expectations, as there is so much to explore and enjoy.
Q: How long is the flight to AlUla from the UK?
A: There are no direct flights from the UK to AlUla, but there are easy connections through Dubai, Doha and Saudi Arabia, making travel times reasonable. Flights to Dubai and Doha are about seven hours from London, with an onward flight of about three hours to AlUla. From London, flights to Riyadh and Jeddah in Saudi Arabia take about six hours, with the flight to AlUla taking about one hour from both cities.
The city has its own international airport, which is an easy access point and very boutique, just like the region’s accommodation.
Q: What currency is used?
A: The local currency is the Saudi Riyal (SAR), which is approximately five to one GBP.
Q: What language is spoken?
A: The official language is Arabic, but English is very commonly used. The Saudi population is quite young, with more than 65% under the age of 35, many of whom have studied overseas, meaning English is widely spoken.
Q: Are there any destination-specific rules that agents should make customers aware of?
A: Like with any destination, it is expected that visitors respect the local culture, but the dress code is comparatively relaxed. Women aren’t required to wear a headscarf, and swimwear is acceptable in hotels.
Q: Which hotels would you recommend for visitors?
A: AlUla has some truly excellent accommodation. There are some amazing five-star desert resorts, including Banyan Tree, which has private villas, and sustainability-focused Habitas AlUla in the beautiful Ashar Valley. The Shaden Resort is well-located with ease of access to Old Town, Elephant Rock and Hegra. For something small and boutique, recommend the Hegra Boutique Hotel or Dar Tantora, an eco style property built in traditional style, which will both be opening in early 2024.
Q: What exciting events are happening in 2024?
A: There are lots. AlUla runs a year-round calendar of events called AlUla Moments, which includes everything from the Wellness Festival and the Ancient Kingdoms Festival to Winter at Tantora and AlUla Skies. There’s also the AlUla Arts Festival, which showcases cutting-edge exhibitions in the desert and tours of the vibrant street art murals. There really is a wealth of activities on offer.
To find out more about AlUla and its upcoming events, visit experiencealula.com
To support your knowledge, register on alulaspecialist.com, where you can take the short training modules and keep updated with new developments, hotels and experiences.
PICTURES: Ameen Qaisran; Mike Massaro; Mohammed Alkaabi; Andy Huntley
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