AlUla expands with luxury accommodation as demand spikes

The commission aims to expand AlUla into a destination that can meet the standards of the luxury market category. (Shutterstock)
The commission aims to expand AlUla into a destination that can meet the standards of the luxury market category. (Shutterstock)
Short Url
Updated 30 March 2022

AlUla expands with luxury accommodation as demand spikes

The commission aims to expand AlUla into a destination that can meet the standards of the luxury market category. (Shutterstock)
  • 2,000 more rooms by 2025, amid 146,000 visitors last year Saudis training as chefs in Paris as 1,600 jobs created for citizens

ALULA: The historic city of AlUla is expanding rapidly to accommodate the needs of the country’s growing tourism industry, including the establishment of new hotels and restaurants, and training up citizens, according to the Royal Commission for AlUla.

“We have a lot of future projects; we have several new hotels coming up. This year, we opened Habitas, and we’ll be opening Banyan Tree at the end of the month. We have three new hotels currently under construction that will be opening by the end of 2022,” the commission’s chief destination marketing officer, Philip Jones, told Arab News.

Banyan Tree AlUla is set to open in the third quarter of 2022 and will be a refurbishment of a previous destination known as Ashar Resort. AlUla has quickly become a favorite travel destination because of its landmarks and seasonal events hosted by the Royal Commission.

HIGHLIGHTS

• 2,000 more rooms by 2025, amid 146,000 visitors last year.

• Saudis training as chefs in Paris as 1,600 jobs created for citizens.

With an expanding list of events, more accommodation is being provided. “We have five new hotels that will be under construction in 2023, including some of the Aman hotels (Swiss multinational hospitality company), and a couple of new brands that will soon be announced,” he said.

Aman will open in 2023 and will be an upscale tented desert camp — a resort that closely complements its natural environment. “That will give us 1,000 keys by the end of 2023, (and) 2,000 keys by the end of 2024, 2025. So we’re making progress,” Jones said.

Describing the future projects, Jones said: “One of the things that we’re very proud of is we expected to have 95,000 visitors by 2021. We ended up with 146,000 … So we’re starting to make our mark and position AlUla as one of the hot up-and-coming boutique cultural heritage destinations globally.”

From hosting some of the world’s biggest names in music and entertainment including Alicia Keys, Lionel Richie, and Andrea Bocelli, AlUla has made a name for itself on the global tourism scene.

“Twenty four percent of visitors who are now coming to AlUla are international visitors. So we have a big number … coming from KSA in the region, but also a significant number coming from around the world,” Jones said.

AlUla Arts, AlUla Skies, Winter at Tantora, and the AlUla Wellness Festival are just a few of the events hosted by the RCU that has welcomed thousands of international and regional travelers.

Jones also said that AlUla citizens are playing a more prominent role in the tourism sector by arranging guided tours, transportation, and accommodation for visitors. “So that’s something we’re excited about because that’s part of the Vision 2030 (which) is training up the local community to be part of the tourism industry, as we go about developing this destination,” he said.

“One of the projects that the Royal Commission has done is they sent a number of locals to be trained as chefs in Paris and elsewhere, so they can come back and bring that knowledge and share it with the local communities,” he said.

“We’re training up the locals for jobs in the tourism industry, I think this year alone across the destination, we will have trained up and engaged about 1,600 locals in jobs in the hospitality sector,” Jones said.

Citizens are also playing a major role in the food and beverage sector of AlUla. Local farmers are producing the products to create the farm-to-table dishes at many restaurants. As a part of the Wellness Festival, the Five Senses Sanctuary sourced its produce from local farms in the surrounding areas.

“A lot of the locals are providing the product. So you have this amazing restaurant on site. And they’re providing the local produce, the citrus, and the dates,” he said. “What we call farm-to-table organic sort of ingredients that are being used, are being sourced locally. And so that’s something that the local community is participating in,” Jones said.

The RCU aims to expand AlUla into a destination that can meet the standards of the luxury market category, while also providing wellness and other experiences in the tranquility of the area’s historic landmarks.


National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia

National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia
Updated 51 min 2 sec ago

National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia

National Cybersecurity Authority launches CyberIC to develop sector in Saudi Arabia
  • The CyberIC program is designed to develop the skills of more than 10,000 Saudis and stimulate the wider domestic cybersecurity sector
  • The program offers courses that include virtual exercises so as to ensure that participants are ready to confront the most significant cybersecurity challenges

JEDDAH: The National Cybersecurity Authority on Monday announced the launch of a new program, CyberIC, to develop the cybersecurity sector in Saudi Arabia.

The program is aimed at developing the capabilities of cybersecurity specialists working with national authorities and stimulating the domestic cybersecurity ecosystem by increasing the development and localization of cybersecurity products, services and solutions.

The CyberIC program is designed to develop the skills of more than 10,000 Saudis and stimulate the wider domestic cybersecurity sector in line with international best practices.

The first phase of the program includes a number of initiatives, such as providing training for employees of national authorities working in cybersecurity and related fields and accelerating cybersecurity activities to stimulate the sector.

It will also include the launch of the second version of the cybersecurity challenge and offer programs for chief information security officers in cooperation with prestigious international universities in the field.

To ensure participants are ready to confront the most significant cybersecurity challenges, the program offers courses that include virtual exercises that simulate real cyberattacks and incidents.

The program is based on six main tracks: innovation and entrepreneurship, cybersecurity officers, cybersecurity trainers, fresh graduates, cybersecurity specialists and law enforcement agencies.

It will support the growth of the cybersecurity industry in the Kingdom by helping more than 60 national cybersecurity startups. Forty have already been launched, while the other 20 will be established through the cybersecurity challenge.


Saudi cabinet urges international community to halt Israeli attacks on Palestinians

Saudi cabinet urges international community to halt Israeli attacks on Palestinians
Updated 09 August 2022

Saudi cabinet urges international community to halt Israeli attacks on Palestinians

Saudi cabinet urges international community to halt Israeli attacks on Palestinians
  • During a session chaired by King Salman, ministers also reaffirmed the Kingdom’s support for action that guarantees the security and stability of Yemen

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Council of Ministers on Tuesday called on the international community to take action to stop repeated attacks by Israelis against Palestinians, and other violations of their rights, and to make every effort to help resolve the long-running conflict.

King Salman, who chaired the cabinet session at Al-Salam Palace in Jeddah, reiterated that the Kingdom continues to stand with Palestine and condemned the recent Israeli attacks on the Palestinian people.

The ministers reviewed a number of reports on the latest regional and international developments. Issam bin Saad bin Saeed, the member for Shoura Council affairs and acting minister of media, said the cabinet reaffirmed the Kingdom’s firm support for all action that can help to guarantee the security and stability of Yemen and its people.

Cabinet members expressed their appreciation for the efforts of the UN to improve the adherence to the cease-fire in Yemen, in line with the Saudi initiative, announced in March last year, to end the crisis in the country and reach a comprehensive political resolution.

Ministers also reiterated the Kingdom’s assertion, made this month during the 10th Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, of support for international efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and place its nuclear facilities under a comprehensive system of safeguards under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The council said it considers the stability and balance of oil markets as one of the pillars of the Kingdom’s energy strategy. It described oil as an important element in supporting the growth of the global economy, as reflected in Saudi Arabia’s pivotal role in establishing and maintaining the OPEC+ agreement on production quotas. Members stressed the importance of full compliance with those quotas by all OPEC+ member nations.

The ministers also expressed their hopes that the Riyadh International Humanitarian Forum, which is being organized by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center in partnership with the UN and will take place in February, will contribute to efforts to find innovative and practical solutions that can help provide humanitarian aid to the highest standards and achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The council session concluded with the approval of a number of decisions. The chairman of the board of directors of the Saudi Authority for Data and Artificial Intelligence was tasked with negotiating with the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development a draft administrative agreement between Saudi Arabia and the bank on a multi-donor trust fund for a digital development partnership.

The minister of energy and the minister of tourism were asked to draft and sign a cooperation agreement between their ministries and their counterparts in Thailand in the fields of energy and tourism.

A memorandum of understanding on labor cooperation between the Saudi Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development and Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Population was approved, as were two MoUs for cooperation in the transport and logistics sector between the Kingdom’s Ministry of Transport and Logistics Services and the French Ministry of Ecological Transition. Ministers also approved an MoU for cooperation between the Saudi General Authority for Statistics and the British Office for National Statistics.


Leading tech experts discuss future of XR technologies at Riyadh forum

Leading tech experts discuss future of XR technologies at Riyadh forum
Updated 09 August 2022

Leading tech experts discuss future of XR technologies at Riyadh forum

Leading tech experts discuss future of XR technologies at Riyadh forum
  • The XR industry was valued at $27 billion a mere three years ago and is expected to reach around $300 billion by 2024
  • Currently, only 1 percent of locally produced video games are consumed in the Saudi market

RIYADH: Local and international leading tech experts took to the stage at Riyadh Boulevard City on Monday to discuss the future of extended reality technologies in a panel discussion.

XR technologies are now more affordable than ever, which has led to their adoption in many industries globally such as education, film and industrial design. 

The XR industry was valued at $27 billion a mere three years ago and is expected to reach around $300 billion by 2024.

One of the goals of the panel, hosted by Gamers8, Ithra and the Saudi Esports Federation, was to spread awareness about Ithra’s Creative Solutions program, which has now hosted two cohorts of tech creatives, some of whom have been nominated for the Virtual Reality Awards in December.  

It also aims to educate the public about the newest XR technologies and their implementations. 

From VR arcades back in the 1990s to PlayStation Move in 2010 and portable VR headsets today, these technologies have been in development for years. Now, they are slowly being integrated into our daily lives.

The panel was moderated by marketing communication specialist Adel Al-Megren, while many questions about AR, mixed reality and artificial intelligence were answered by Simon Benson, inventor and tech consultant; Faisal bin Homran, head of esports at SEF; Rodrigo Terra, co-founder of ARVORE Immersive Experiences; and Dr. Ali Al-Shammari, managing director of NEOM Academy.

Esports education is one of the main goals of the biggest gaming and esports festival globally, Gamers8, and aims to create a greater market for local production and consumption.

Currently, only 1 percent of locally produced video games are consumed in the Saudi market. 

“We see the program as a window, as a gate, that connects Saudi to the world and the world to Saudi,” said Filipe Gomes, curator of the Creative Solutions program. 

Benson, who is also on the advisory board for Ithra’s Creative Solution program, said: “Instead of using the keyboard and mouse or a touchscreen as a tiny thing in our phone or our smartwatches to interact with digital content, we can actually do it in a much more intuitive way.”

Diego Terra, chief technology evangelist at ARVORE, said that now films and games can become more immersive as these technologies interact with the body itself and are also more user-friendly to older generations. 

“When we have the real-time content and you have interaction, you can explore one thing that is crucial, which is the senses,” he said. 

While headsets are currently on the market, smart glasses are a growing trend.

Smart glasses can instantaneously translate a restaurant menu instead of typing it into a translator app.

“If we were to have a video call, instead of you just appearing as a flat person, you could be in 3D, like a hologram in front of me,” Benson said, describing another use for the technology.

“It’s very much on our horizon now…definitely within our lifetime,” he added. 

The newly charted territory of the metaverse goes hand-in-hand with XR technologies. 

The metaverse, accessed through these technologies, will allow us to enter places and not just links. 

“We’re going to [be] doing all the things that we do now but in a different way…Websites will not be websites, [they] will be places…The vision is that gaming is just a place you go, not something that you download and use,” said Terra.


Saudi Arabia, US prepare for bilateral Native Fury 22 drill in Yanbu, Al-Kharj 

Saudi Arabia, US prepare for bilateral Native Fury 22 drill in Yanbu, Al-Kharj 
Updated 09 August 2022

Saudi Arabia, US prepare for bilateral Native Fury 22 drill in Yanbu, Al-Kharj 

Saudi Arabia, US prepare for bilateral Native Fury 22 drill in Yanbu, Al-Kharj 
  • The exercises are set to take place this week in Yanbu and Al-Kharj and will last for several days

Saudi and US marine corps arrived in Yanbu on Tuesday ahead of the planned bilateral Native Fury 22 drill maneuvers, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported. 

The exercises are set to take place this week in Yanbu and Al-Kharj and will last for several days, according to SPA. 

The drills are aimed at enhancing the partnership between Saudi forces and their US counterparts when carrying out bilateral plans, SPA said. 


Solar panel design and fitting training for Saudi students

Solar panel design and fitting training for Saudi students
Updated 09 August 2022

Solar panel design and fitting training for Saudi students

Solar panel design and fitting training for Saudi students
  • KAUST and SESP ink skills pact for two programs

RIYADH: King Abdullah University of Science and Technology signed a memorandum of understanding with the Saudi Electric Services Polytechnic on Monday to train local students to design and install solar panels.

The pact focuses on photovoltaic energy design and installation, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

After completing the two programs, trainees will have to pass SESP’s exams to become certified for the work.

Dr. Kevin Cullen, KAUST vice president for innovation, said one of the university’s key innovation goals is to build technical capabilities and a skilled workforce in Saudi Arabia.

SESP Director-General Dr. Khaled Al-Somali said the institute was capable of producing highly qualified, productive graduates while also recognizing the need for skilled junior technicians in the Kingdom’s renewable energy sector.