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RCU announces new eco-friendly resort in AlUla

AlUla’s heritage sites are set to re-open to visitors in October

The Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) said that it has started construction of a new community-focused, eco-friendly resort in the desert canyons of Ashar Valley AlUla in Saudi Arabia. The move follows the signing of a new partnership with Habitas.

According to a statement, RCU is expanding AlUla’s economic opportunities through light-touch tourism and sustainable development, while Habitas is said to be redefining modern luxury by focusing on bringing likeminded but diverse travelers together. These travelers prioritise human connection and experiences over the traditional luxury experience of five-star hotels, the RCU said.

The Habitas brand is said to be popular with a new generation of discerning travelers, and has resorts in Tulum, Mexico, and in other locations in Asia and Africa. It began as a diverse community of people who would come together around immersive events, seeking human connection, authentic experiences and a better future, the statement explained.

“This agreement reflects our commitment to making AlUla a global destination that offers visitors unique, authentic experiences as we protect, share and celebrate our natural and cultural heritage. Construction is underway, a fact that signals that we are actively opening up new opportunities for regional and international investors in the hospitality sector while empowering and enabling our community,” said Amr AlMadani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

According to the statement, AlUla is home to the country’s first Unesco World Heritage Site, Hegra. It is a 52-hectare ancient city that was the principal southern city of the Nabataean Kingdom and comprises more than 100 well preserved tombs with elaborate facades cut into sandstone outcrops. Hegra is said to have undergone an experiential tourism transformation in recent years.

Habitas says it is planning to empower and enable AlUla’s communities through micro-economies within the hotel, tourism, and the wider hospitality industries. This approach is said to reflect RCU and Habitas’ shared focus on social and sustainable development. The firm notes the first phase will deliver 50 keys by the first quarter of 2021.

Oliver Ripley, CEO of Habitas, added: “From our very first trip to AlUla we were really inspired by the people we met and by its natural beauty and heritage. Travel is an incredible gift to create greater compassion and understanding in the world between different people and cultures. We are grateful to RCU for the opportunity to create our home here and invite our community to discover the unique history of AlUla, to share unforgettable experiences and adventures, and make new friends that stay with us long after we leave.”

He continued: “RCU’s approach to sustainable development aligns very closely to our values and DNA and in our mission to support local communities. The world, now more than ever, needs to create places for people to reconnect with one another and with nature.”

In addition to Hegra, AlUla is said to be home to a series of fascinating historical and archaeological sites such as: Ancient Dadan, the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan Kingdoms, which is considered one of the most developed 1st-millennium BCE cities of the Arabian Peninsula; thousands of ancient rock art sites and inscriptions; and Hijaz Railway stations.

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