‘Domestic tourism set to boom’
‘Domestic tourism set to boom’
This is the view of Prince Sultan bin Salman, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and Antiquities (SCTA).
He spoke to Arab News exclusively after recently receiving the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference Leadership Award in Dubai, in the presence of Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum, chairman and chief executive officer of Emirates Airline.
Prince Sultan said there is currently tremendous growth in hotel developments, particularly from first-time international investors. This is because the Kingdom has a strong and stable economy based on the government adopting a long-term and "balanced" fiscal outlook.
“This year witnessed a real go for the SCTA following several decisions. The most significant for the tourism sector was the approval of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Cultural Heritage project, and support for the commission administratively and financially,” he said.
Prince Sultan said the SCTA's main aim is to develop the domestic tourism sector because this is a major part of the market.
The SCTA was also providing for overseas visitors. “The Kingdom is never closed. Millions of pilgrims visit every year, and now the commission has started a post-Umrah tourism program that allows pilgrims to tour the Kingdom in collaboration with the Ministries of Interior, Foreign Affairs and Haj."
He said that this is in addition to providing services for those who attend conferences, various exhibitions, and who arrive to work in the country.
He said the Kingdom plans to develop a wider variety of attractions including resorts, different classes of hotels, furnished apartments, ecohotels, and desert camps in various provinces. This includes Al-Ula, Hail, Al-Thumamah, Al-Qaseem, Al-Dariah, Al-Laith and Asir.
A project under way is the SR17-billion Al-Aqeer development, which will provide 1,364 hotel rooms at a cost of SR900 million. Other projects include the Souq Okaz development in Taif, Red Sea coastal projects, and the Al-Hada center development.
Prince Sultan said the SCTA has faced many challenges in its attempt to turn the sector around. “The journey was not easy, and it did not start with the supervision of the hospitality sector in 2009. It was preceded by the Ministry of Commerce giving the commission a full development program in 2007.”
The SCTA's restructuring of the hotel sector, which has attracted foreign players, included new licensing procedures, reclassifying about 4,000 hotels and furnished apartments in terms of quality, and then setting and enforcing price controls, said Prince Sultan.
These changes were introduced to meet the needs of investors, and provide customers with quality services at affordable prices.
A new financing program introduced by the SCTA would also help grow the sector, which has seen significant development over the past decade, he said.
In March 2014, there were 3,710 facilities, including 1,222 hotels, 2,488 furnished apartments, and 29,950 hotel rooms. More than 77 percent of the hotel investments were in Makkah and Madinah.
Prince Sultan said there would be massive growth in hotel projects over the next two years. High-quality hotel developments costing SR143.9 billion would be completed by 2020, he said.
A key objective is to provide jobs for citizens in the hospitality industry. There were 203,000 Saudi workers in direct and 126,000 in indirect tourism jobs at the end of 2013. This is expected to grow to 1 million and 773,000 respectively by 2020, he said.
Bulgari hotel: An Italian escape in Dubai
- The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island
- Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic
DUBAI: Bulgari, the venerated Italian design house, has just five hotels around the world. And even in Dubai — a city crammed with luxury hotels — the Bulgari Resort manages to seem exclusive. The “urban oasis” is currently the only hotel situated on the offshore Jumeira Bay island, offering guests some respite from the city’s often-hectic atmosphere, even though it is literally minutes away from the pulsing heart of Dubai.
Home to just 110 rooms, suites and villas, the sprawling low-rise property oozes Italian elegance with its minimalist aesthetic. Master architects Antonio Citterio and Patricia Viel — who are responsible for all the Bulgari hotels worldwide — have used a neutral color palette and custom motifs, such as coral-inspired lacquered steel parapets and mashrabiya-patterned accents, to give the hotel a sense of place.
Here, luxury doesn’t shout its presence with bling or ostentatious features, instead it quietly whispers, with fine materials — from Italian marble to sumptuous silks, impeccable attention to detail, and touches including the signature fragrance that wafts around you from the second you enter.
The hotel is responsible for a couple of firsts for the brand, including its ‘Little Gems’ kids club — where children are entertained with bespoke activities such as cooking classes and treasure hunts while their parents enjoy some downtime — and the global debut of the Bulgari Marina & Yacht Club, which has its own pool and recreation facilities, signature seafood restaurant, and 50-berth harbor.
All rooms and suites feature a walk-in closet, spacious balconies, smooth one-touch button controls, and bathrooms with standalone tubs boasting enviable views — making for some excellent Insta-fodder. The signature trunk-style mini-bar is as funky as it is functional, and the trendy basket beach bags are perfect for stashing your souvenirs — including designer knick-knacks from on-site concept store La Galleria.
The one-, two-, and three-bedroom villas offer private pools and butler service, but you don’t want to miss the resort’s circular central pool, where luxury cabanas with oversized daybeds and on-call service invite you to lounge the day away. Just adjacent is the crescent-shaped private beach, with the gentle waters of the Arabian Gulf offering perfect swimming conditions, even if the tip of the seahorse-shaped island mars the view slightly.
Whether you opt for a beach-and-pool day or a Dubai-sightseeing trip, your evening should definitely be devoted to the quintessentially Italian aperitivo experience at Il Bar, where an oval-shaped chrome counter provides a social centerpiece, and an outdoor terrace offers marina views. The seriously chic Il Ristorante (by lauded Italian chef Niko Romito) is just next door, and shares the terrace. Its tiramisu is one of the best in town, as is the freshly baked rustic bread.
Offering a more pared-back dining experience are La Spiaggia, a beachside restaurant and bar, and Il Café, the Bulgari take on a casual all-day dining destination which still features jaw-dropping design, and, in line with the whole ‘nothing is too much trouble’ service ethos, serves breakfast all day.
That ethos extends to the spa too, where therapists provide the ultimate in pampering using top-shelf products, including La Mer, in a soothing nature-inspired space. The use of rare precious materials, including grey Vicenza stone and green onyx, infuse the environment with a subtle opulence.
A 25-meter indoor swimming pool with its own cabanas, extensive facilities (including a shower offering a “Caribbean thunderstorm” experience), and private hammam, plus an exclusive Lee Mullins training program at the state-of-the-art gym complete the impressive recreation facilities at the resort.
If you’re looking for a classy, authentic ‘slice-of-Italy’ experience in the Middle East, then the Bulgari Resort Dubai is where you should check in.