Eid escapes: A guide to relaxing holiday destinations in the Kingdom

Special Eid escapes: A guide to relaxing holiday destinations in the Kingdom
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
Special Eid escapes: A guide to relaxing holiday destinations in the Kingdom
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
Special Eid escapes: A guide to relaxing holiday destinations in the Kingdom
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
Special Eid escapes: A guide to relaxing holiday destinations in the Kingdom
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Saudi Arabia offers an array of options, from luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, for an Eid Al-Fitr break. (Supplied)
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Updated 11 April 2024
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Eid escapes: A guide to relaxing holiday destinations in the Kingdom

Eid escapes: A guide to relaxing holiday destinations in the Kingdom
  • Saudi Arabia’s diverse landscapes beckon adventurers to explore its natural wonders
  • Saudi Arabia’s renowned tourism project, The Red Sea, is welcoming guests with the opening of The St. Regis Red Sea Resort

JEDDAH: After a month of worship, many people during Eid Al-Fitr break seek fun and relaxation. For those looking for a serene and rejuvenating destination, Saudi Arabia offers an array of options. From luxury resorts to sustainable desert getaways, the Kingdom provides diverse choices to suit all preferences.

Here is a curated list of destinations for a perfect Eid getaway.

The St. Regis Red Sea Resort

Saudi Arabia’s renowned tourism project, The Red Sea, is welcoming guests with the opening of The St. Regis Red Sea Resort. Situated on the Ummahat Islands in the Al-Wajh Lagoon, this luxurious resort features 90 beachfront and overwater villas, each boasting private pools and stunning views. Designed by architect Kengo Kuma, the resort’s aesthetic reflects the beauty of coral reefs and dunes. Guests can dine al fresco at five beachside venues and enjoy Japanese-inspired cuisine at Gishiki 45 and Tilina. The resort offers a spa, gym, and outdoor lap pool, all powered by renewable energy. Rates start from $1,866 per night.

Six Senses Southern Dunes

Nestled amid rolling dunes and the Hijaz Mountains, Six Senses Southern Dunes offers a unique retreat. With rooms, suites, and villas designed under tent-like roofs, the resort blends modern luxury with traditional charm. Guests can enjoy spacious accommodations with outdoor terraces and private pools. The resort’s spa spans 4,000 square feet and offers a range of treatments. Activities include cooking classes and fishing tours, and dining options cater to diverse palates. Rates start from SR4,380 ($1,168) for a Wadi King Room, with a commitment to sustainability.

AlUla: A haven of history and natural beauty

Located in the northwest of Saudi Arabia, AlUla is renowned for its rich history, stunning landscapes, and archaeological wonders. Home to UNESCO World Heritage Sites like the Nabatean tombs at Hegra and ancient rock art, AlUla offers visitors a glimpse into ancient civilizations. The region is undergoing extensive development to enhance its tourism infrastructure while preserving its cultural heritage and natural beauty.

Here are some top accommodations in AlUla for an unforgettable Eid escape experience:

Habitas AlUla: A sustainable desert resort offering luxury accommodations amid the desert canyons of the Ashar Valley, Habitas AlUla features 96 guest villas, each designed to blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape. Guests can enjoy a range of facilities, including wellness centers, dining options, and a large infinity swimming pool.

Caravan by Habitas AlUla: Caravan provides a unique luxury camping experience in the picturesque Ashar Valley with exclusive Airstream trailers offering either an oasis or mountainous view. Each of the 22 deluxe trailers features panoramic views, air conditioning, WiFi, a queen-size bed (or two single beds), an indoor lounge, a kitchenette, and a private shower and bathroom. Prices range from SR1500 to SR2500 per night.

Ashar Tented Resort: Nestled amid the sweeping desert sands and rugged rock formations of the Ashar Valley, this luxury camping experience immerses guests in AlUla’s spectacular scenery. With access to five-star facilities at the neighboring Banyan Tree Hotel, guests can enjoy a comfortable and memorable stay.

Banyan Tree AlUla: Offering breathtaking views of the Ashar Valley, Banyan Tree AlUla features 47 elegant tented villas adorned with authentic Arabian-inspired details. Committed to sustainability and well-being, the resort advocates for environmental conservation and cultural preservation.

Whether you seek luxury, tranquility, or cultural immersion, AlUla offers a range of experiences to suit every traveler’s preference.

Explore the region’s rich history, breathtaking landscapes, and unparalleled hospitality for an unforgettable Eid getaway: www.experiencealula.com.

Adventures and sightseeing

Many seek the perfect getaway to unwind and connect with nature. In Saudi Arabia, adventure-seekers have a plethora of options thanks to the diverse terrains that span the Kingdom. From sandy deserts to rugged mountains and lush valleys, there is something for everyone to explore.

Guiding adventurers across the Kingdom

Saudi Trips, a leading adventure agency, offers a range of trips and hikes across the Kingdom. Founded by Ibrahim Saad, the agency aims to provide visitors with the best Eid experience, tailored to their preferences and budget.

Saad highlights some of the prime camping and hiking spots, including the iconic AlUla region, the mysterious Dark Cave in Tabuk, and the picturesque Wadi Al-Disah in Jazan.

“In my opinion, the best destinations during Eid break are the sandy areas, caves, and valleys,” Saad told Arab News. “Activities vary according to the terrain, including walking on the sand, mountain climbing, and descending.”

Other notable destinations Saad mentioned include Lajab Valley, the Caravans Trail along the Tuwaiq Mountains, Thumama, and Mount Qarah in the Eastern Province.

Happy escape

For those seeking a unique experience, Ahway, a Saudi tourism project, offers well-equipped caravans in scenic locations. Founded by Saeed Azhar, Ahway aims to promote local tourism while providing visitors with a chance to disconnect from city life and immerse themselves in nature. Starting in Taif, the project plans to expand to other regions like AlUla and Tabuk, offering guests a chance to explore Saudi Arabia’s stunning landscapes.

Diverse landscapes

Khalid Al-Rabiah, CEO of Ghamra Adventures Agency, spoke to Arab News about the allure of Saudi Arabia’s diverse landscapes during Eid.

“Being in a large city like Riyadh, the nearby areas, especially Thadiq National Park and the dunes and valleys of Rughabah Village, are considered prime destinations for Eid escape, especially with their unique nature and the presence of hiking trails and mountain ridges spanning over 70 km.

“There is also a growing trend of camping in the unique natural environments of Hail and Tabuk, known for their peculiar mountains with strange formations and golden sands.”

Ali Al-Abdali, a tour guide in Jazan, describes the region as a haven for hiking and wilderness enthusiasts not only for the Eid holiday but throughout the year.

From stunning beaches along the Red Sea to rugged mountains like Al-Ardah and Al-Rayth, Jazan offers diverse landscapes for outdoor activities.

As Eid approaches, Saudi Arabia’s natural attractions beckon adventurers, both local and international, to explore and create unforgettable memories amid breathtaking scenery.


Baha’s quaint guesthouses offer a warm welcome

Baha’s lodges provide visitors with a look into the past, a taste of a simpler time that many people long for. (SPA)
Baha’s lodges provide visitors with a look into the past, a taste of a simpler time that many people long for. (SPA)
Updated 12 May 2024
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Baha’s quaint guesthouses offer a warm welcome

Baha’s lodges provide visitors with a look into the past, a taste of a simpler time that many people long for. (SPA)
  • Sharifa Al-Ghamdi, owner of Al-Ayed Heritage Guesthouse, revealed that she has worked hard over the years to acquire as many historic houses as possible to be able to give tourists an authentic taste of what life was like in the past

RIYADH: Al-Baha is a region of the Kingdom blessed with a rich legacy of ancient architecture, with heritage lodges playing a big role in luring tourism to the city.

According to the Saudi Press Agency, heritage lodges or guesthouses in the region play an important role in attracting more investment. They provide local and international visitors with a look into the past, a taste of a simpler time that many people long for.

Baha’s lodges provide visitors with a look into the past, a taste of a simpler time that many people long for. (SPA)

The guesthouses are a reflection of the region’s heritage. Al-Baha’s residential buildings, castles and fortresses were designed to suit not just environmental variables such as topography and climate, but also social circumstances such as local customs and ancient traditions.

FASTFACTS

• Heritage lodges or guesthouses in the Baha region play an important role in attracting more investment.

• One of the most enticing elements of these heritage guesthouses is their deep connection with nature.

One of the most enticing elements of these heritage guesthouses is their deep connection with nature.

Baha’s lodges provide visitors with a look into the past, a taste of a simpler time that many people long for. (SPA)

They are constructed using stones and trees from the region, typically granite and basalt boulders adorned with quartz, and roofed with mud-coated juniper trees.

Sharifa Al-Ghamdi, owner of Al-Ayed Heritage Guesthouse, revealed that she has worked hard over the years to acquire as many historic houses as possible to be able to give tourists an authentic taste of what life was like in the past.

Baha’s lodges provide visitors with a look into the past, a taste of a simpler time that many people long for. (SPA)

She said that, with the assistance of her family, she was able to realize her lifelong dream and passion and invest her post-retirement time in establishing heritage tourist guesthouses.

She has transformed the old houses in her village from dilapidated structures into a tourist and environmental attraction for people in search of tranquility and relaxation.

 


All is rosy in Taif as fans flock to flower festival

The 19th Taif Rose Festival, themed ‘Qetaf’ meaning ‘Picking Time,’ coincides with the harvest season and will run until May 12.
The 19th Taif Rose Festival, themed ‘Qetaf’ meaning ‘Picking Time,’ coincides with the harvest season and will run until May 12.
Updated 08 May 2024
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All is rosy in Taif as fans flock to flower festival

The 19th Taif Rose Festival, themed ‘Qetaf’ meaning ‘Picking Time,’ coincides with the harvest season and will run until May 12.
  • Taif’s annual show features a floral carpet of over million flowers
  • Farmers, vendors optimistic about increase in sales at the event

JEDDAH: Visitors are flocking to the 19th Taif Rose Festival at Al-Raddaf Park where the flowers are in full bloom, highlighting the region’s rich floral heritage.

The festival, themed “Qetaf” meaning “picking time,” coincides with the harvest season and will run until May 12. The organizers include the Taif Rose Cooperative Society and Taif Municipality.

The 19th Taif Rose Festival, themed ‘Qetaf’ meaning ‘Picking Time,’ coincides with the harvest season and will run until May 12. (SPA)

There has been an impressive turnout of Taif residents and domestic and international tourists. The exhibitors — mostly farmers and vendors — are optimistic that increased revenues will help boost rose cultivation and production.

Abdullah Altwairqi, a local farmer and festival participant, said: “Participating in the Taif Rose Festival has become a tradition for me. The atmosphere improves each year, and the revenue and exposure we receive from visitors make it worthwhile.”

HIGHLIGHTS

• Exhibitors at the Taif Rose Festival are optimistic that increased revenues will help boost rose cultivation and production.

• The flower carpet set up by the municipality in the center of the park was designed with decorative patterns inspired by the province’s heritage.

• It covers 5,206 square meters and was crafted using over a million flower and rose seedlings, making it the largest in the history of the festival.

At his booth, Altwairqi showcased various flowers and fruit, including Taif roses, peaches, prickly pears, figs, mulberries, grapes, blackberries, pomegranates, as well as aromatic plants.

The 19th Taif Rose Festival, themed ‘Qetaf’ meaning ‘Picking Time,’ coincides with the harvest season and will run until May 12. (SPA)

Altwairqi urged people to visit the Rose Flavor cafe where they can savor hot and cold beverages infused with the flavor of Taif roses and other aromatic flowers including lavender, which is also abundant in the region.

The flower carpet set up by the municipality in the center of the park left visitors awestruck. Covering 5,206 square meters, it was crafted using over a million flower and rose seedlings, making it the largest in the history of the festival.

The 19th Taif Rose Festival, themed ‘Qetaf’ meaning ‘Picking Time,’ coincides with the harvest season and will run until May 12. (SPA)

Faiz Al-Thibaiti, director-general of media and corporate communication at Taif Municipality, told Arab News: “The flower carpet was designed with decorative patterns inspired by the province’s heritage.”

He said the carpet has ensured the event has become “one of the most important tourism festivals in the Kingdom, attracting thousands of visitors and tourists from various regions of the country.”

NUMBER

70k

The rose-picking season in Taif starts around the end of March or early April, lasting between 35 to 45 days, with an average of 70,000 roses picked daily.

The decorations adorning the flower carpet draw inspiration from the intricate designs found on the walls and facades of Taif’s ancient structures, including Al-Kaki Palace in Al-Salama and King Saud Palace.

The 19th Taif Rose Festival, themed ‘Qetaf’ meaning ‘Picking Time,’ coincides with the harvest season and will run until May 12. (SPA)

Al-Thibaiti added: “Preparations for the festival started early, with the Taif Rose Cooperative Society detailing participation criteria to highlight Taif roses, including their cultivation, harvesting, and distillation into fine perfumes. This adds to Taif’s unique tourist appeal. The festival provides a platform for producers, experts, and entrepreneurs to connect, collaborate, and boost this important sector.”

Among the highlights are the rose and flower path, product stalls, goods market, government booths, and the agricultural nursery.

The gaint flower and rose carpet, spanning 5206 square meters, was meticulously crafted using 1,026,491 diverse flower and rose seedlings. (Supplied)

Interactive fountain shows accompanied by national tunes were also among the attractions, with a crossing to the upper pedestrian bridge from where visitors can view the massive flower carpet.

Artwork, flower arrangements, and hanging floral baskets scattered throughout the park added to the flair of the event.

The 19th Taif Rose Festival, themed ‘Qetaf’ meaning ‘Picking Time,’ coincides with the harvest season and will run until May 12. (SPA)

Al-Thibaiti said: “The significant turnout at the current festival comes amid increasing rose production year after year, indicating the success of this agricultural sector in achieving high revenues while continuing to promote the Taif rose product.”

Taifrosethon

The five-day Taifrosethon began on May 7, which is being held to encourage entrepreneurship in the region with technological solutions to enrich the industry.

The flower carpet was designed with decorative patterns inspired by the province's heritage. (Supplied)

The event includes various skills training and technical workshops covering trade, cultural heritage, and tourism.

The top-three winners will receive $2,666, $1,866 and $1,333 respectively. Participants are required to enter as teams, each with three to five members.

Taif’s roses

The Taif province produces more than 200 million roses each season. According to the local chamber of industry, each tree produces an average of 250 roses daily throughout the harvest season, which lasts for about 45 days.

The rose-picking season starts around the end of March or early April, lasting between 35 to 45 days, with an average of 70,000 roses picked daily.

Taif roses feature an exquisite, sweet fragrance and vibrant pink hues on delicate petals, and are a hallmark of the region’s natural beauty.

Cultivated in the high-altitude climate of Taif, these roses thrive in the cool temperatures and fertile soil of the region.

They are meticulously harvested by hand to preserve their quality, with the petals carefully collected for various purposes.

 


AlUla Academy aims to be hub for tourism vocational training in Saudi Arabia and beyond

AlUla Academy aims to be hub for tourism vocational training in Saudi Arabia and beyond
Updated 08 May 2024
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AlUla Academy aims to be hub for tourism vocational training in Saudi Arabia and beyond

AlUla Academy aims to be hub for tourism vocational training in Saudi Arabia and beyond
  • Hotel.School chosen as global partner for hospitality training and the academy will welcome its first group of students in early July

ALULA: The Royal Commission for AlUla on Tuesday officially launched AlUla Academy, described as a pioneering initiative that aims to be a beacon across the region for excellence in vocational training in the tourism sector.

It will serve as a global hub, officials said, for workers directly involved in crafting memorable experiences for diverse groups of visitors to AlUla from around the globe.

Hotel.School has been chosen as the academy’s global partner for hospitality training, and the collaboration will begin with an inaugural digital training program for the first group of students in early July. Subsequent programs will be available through the academy’s website.

Hotel.School has been chosen as the academy’s global partner for hospitality training, and the collaboration will begin with an inaugural digital training program for the first group of students in early July. (SPA)

Authorities in the Kingdom are carefully developing historic AlUla, an ancient oasis in the northwest of the Arabian Peninsula, as a global tourist destination distinguished by its 7,000-year-plus history, spanning several civilizations.

It encompasses four primary heritage sites and a wide selection of visitor experiences which, the Royal Commission said, offer tourists the chance to immerse themselves in the region’s rich heritage and culture, take advantage of its wellness offerings, bask in the beauty of nature, indulge in the arts, and embark on and voyage of discovery.

Hotel.School has been chosen as the academy’s global partner for hospitality training, and the collaboration will begin with an inaugural digital training program for the first group of students in early July. (SPA)

The establishment of the academy therefore stands as a pioneering endeavor within the field of tourism, it added, and a cornerstone of efforts to achieve the goals of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 development and diversification plan, one of the aims of which is to create 1.3 million jobs for Saudi citizens.

Philip Jones, the Royal Commission for AlUla’s chief tourism officer, said: “Learning centers such as AlUla Academy play a pivotal role in creating job opportunities while upholding excellence in visitor experiences to international standards, all while maintaining an authentic Saudi essence.

Hotel.School has been chosen as the academy’s global partner for hospitality training, and the collaboration will begin with an inaugural digital training program for the first group of students in early July. (SPA)

“Both physically and digitally, AlUla Academy will expedite the training process, enhancing the quality and efficiency of professional skill development, thereby advancing the tourism sector’s goals in the Kingdom.”

The guests at the launch ceremony on Tuesday included Anita Mendiratta, special advisor to the UN secretary-general at the UN World Tourism Organization. Also a member of the Royal Commission’s advisory board between 2017 and 2023, and one of the key figures behind the development of the academy, she emphasized the organization’s steadfast commitment and dedication to the enhancement of visitor experiences through the development of local skills.

“The key to AlUla’s development lies in embracing authenticity and prioritizing community engagement,” Mendiratta said.

“The Royal Commission for AlUla understands that reaching tangible milestones necessitates investing in skill development, providing services with international standards, yet infusing them with the distinct essence of AlUla that echoes its environment, the culture of its people, and their profound history.”

Hotel.School was carefully chosen as a global partner for AlUla Academy, the commission said, following a rigorous selection process to identify the most suitable collaborator to bolster its endeavors and help achieve its objectives. To that end, it will offer intelligent educational solutions and collaborate with developers of cutting-edge technologies to provide a diverse array of online-learning experiences, officials said. Further information about courses, registration procedures and criteria for the selection of students will be available soon.

Adnan Sawadi, the acting director of Hotel.School, said the institution is committed to supporting the commission in its mission to achieve excellence in vocational training across AlUla, the Kingdom and the wider region.

“At Hotel.School, we recognize that the vitality of the hospitality sector is its people, and we take pride in our pivotal role in nurturing and developing the skills essential to fortifying AlUla’s position as a global tourism and hospitality hub,” he said.

“Our commitment extends to fostering an educational environment that resonates with the region’s rich heritage, amplifying its cultural significance on the global stage.”

AlUla has received significant acclaim and been described as a beacon of success in the field of tourism development and the enhancement of local skills, the commission said. It attracted 263,000 visitors in 2023 alone and consistently surpasses the targets set for it, officials said, increasingly bringing it to the attention of leading event organizers, investors, development partners, airlines and the international media.

 

 


Ryan Reynolds named Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island ambassador

Ryan Reynolds named Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island ambassador
Updated 29 April 2024
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Ryan Reynolds named Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island ambassador

Ryan Reynolds named Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island ambassador

DUBAI: Unmasked as the mystery skydiving celebrity who appeared in a recent teaser campaign for the Abu Dhabi location, Hollywood star Ryan Reynolds is Yas Island’s newest “Chief Island Officer.”

The “Deadpool” actor takes up the role after US actor Jason Momoa, who in turn took over from US comedian Kevin Hart.

In the new promotional video, Reynolds is seen parachuting straight into the heart of the action amidst speeding cars on Yas Marina Circuit, missing his intended landing spot at the W Abu Dhabi.

“I've been an actor, a producer, a Welsh football club owner and I could go on. So I will …" begins Reynolds, but the rest of his speech is drowned out by the roar of F1 cars as they zoom around the circuit.

The trailer also features the actor enjoying the sights and sounds of Yas Island, as he zooms down water slides at Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi, explores Gotham City  and takes rollercoaster rides at Warner Bros. World.

"With the appointment of Ryan Reynolds as our latest chief island officer of Yas Island Abu Dhabi, we continue the tradition of excellence established by Kevin Hart and Jason Momoa. Reynolds brings his own unique blend of charisma, energy, and enthusiasm to the role, promising to elevate the Yas Island experience to even greater heights. We're thrilled to embark on this exhilarating journey with him, inviting fans worldwide to be part of the legacy," said Liam Findlay, chief executive of Miral Destinations.

 


How the hospitality industry in Saudi Arabia is embracing environmental sustainability

How the hospitality industry in Saudi Arabia is embracing environmental sustainability
Updated 02 May 2024
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How the hospitality industry in Saudi Arabia is embracing environmental sustainability

How the hospitality industry in Saudi Arabia is embracing environmental sustainability
  • From the Red Sea coast to Al-Ahsa Oasis, new eco-friendly hotels and resorts are opening across the Kingdom
  • Industry leaders are boosting sustainability by cutting emissions, protecting habitats, and creating jobs locally

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is emerging as a hotspot for international investment. Its latest hook? Sustainable hospitality.

The Kingdom led the Middle East and Africa’s hotel-building activity in 2023, with 42,033 hotel rooms constructed. This accounted for 35.1 percent of the 119,505 built in the region over the year, according to data from hotel monitoring firm STR. 

Saudi Arabia’s hotel segment is projected to generate $2.51 billion in revenue this year and is expected to reach $3.02 billion by 2027, according to Statista.

One of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals is to champion sustainability across all sectors, and in turn, hotels and plazas across the country have been working to implement more environmental and eco-friendly practices in their facilities. 

 

From 2010 to 2019, Saudi Arabia’s tourism industry has contributed an average of 6.4 percent to the country’s gross domestic product, while recording a decline in greenhouse gas emissions. 

In contrast, the global GDP average for travel and tourism over the same period rose 4.3 percent, and emissions by 2.5 percent.

Several of Red Sea Global’s developments are already up and running along the Kingdom’s northwestern coastline, including the Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea and St. Regis Red Sea Resort. 

The company recently announced further projects pillared by environmental sustainability. 

The Four Seasons luxury wellness resort, Amaala, Triple Bay, is branded with regeneration and wellness at its core, and is set to feature a one-of-a-kind Corallium marine life institute. 

Saudi Arabia’s Triple Bay AMAALA will soon be home to a Four Seasons luxury wellness resort and is committed to sustainability, aligning with Four Seasons’ longstanding pledge to well-being. (Supplied)

Progress is also being made on a sustainability-focused staff village that will provide housing for those who work at the resort. RSG says that five international operator brands, including Six Senses and Clinique La Prairie, are expected to be confirmed in the coming months.

“Our mission to develop new destinations as beacons of responsible tourism, showcasing the best in sustainable and regenerative development, gains unprecedented urgency as our planet continues to face challenges in relation to the climate crisis and biodiversity loss,” John Pagano, RSG’s group CEO, said in a statement.

The economic zone NEOM recently unveiled three new sustainable hotels in its Leyja oasis, including three flagship Habitas properties, as well as Zardun, a sanctuary resort designed to harmonize with the surrounding ecosystem. 

NEOM’s Hotel Development division has also sponsored Hotelschool The Hague to bring about the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge, bolstering a new generation of innovation in the industry.

Many of the resorts across Saudi Arabia are built to blend in with the surrounding environment. Take AlUla’s Habitas, for example, which boasts the city’s serene desert landscape that immerses guests in its untouched backdrop.

Habitas’ sustainable design and modular construction aim to minimize environmental impacts. It is free of single-use plastics, offsets carbon emissions, and manages waste, recycling and composting. (Supplied)

The luxury resort brand demonstrates its sustainable ethos, in line with the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, through the offsetting of carbon emissions, waste management and a single-use plastic free policy.

“The AlUla Sustainability Charter is at the core of every hospitality project we develop within the destination,” Phillip Jones, chief tourism officer at the Royal Commission for AlUla, told Arab News.

“From the foundational design and materials of construction to the infrastructure, and the ongoing operations, as we only work with international operators that have a proven track record in sustainability, AlUla’s hotels and resorts each contribute toward delivering on our goals, such as achieving net carbon neutrality for local emissions by 2035.”

As the Arab region demonstrates overall lower environmental sustainability due to water scarcity, harsh climate and biodiversity threats, industry leaders are redefining the buzz term to fit local standards.

There are a number of grassroots projects that examine the existing traces of environmental sustainability awareness throughout the Arab region’s history. The Kingdom’s forefathers exhibited community-centered lifestyles, for example, while Islam advises its followers to conserve food and water consumption. 

Chris Nader, CEO and co-founder of luxury ecolodge brand and management company ENVI Lodges, told Arab News: “Sustainability comes from a basis of trying to minimize our negative impacts on the environment. It’s not only nature, or animals — it’s also people.” 

KAEC will host the first eco-friendly coastal resort in the distinguished and captivating Laguna area. (ENVI Lodges image)

ENVI Laguna Bay, a sustainable project developed by Al-Rasim Hotels and Resorts, will occupy a prime Red Sea coast beachfront destination in King Abdullah Economic City, surrounded by mangroves. 

“KAEC will host the first eco-friendly coastal resort in the distinguished and captivating laguna area,” Aiad Mushaikh, CEO of Al-Rasim Hotels and Resorts, said in a statement.

The project strongly aligns with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. Its road map for tourism sector growth includes respecting the land, protecting wildlife, supporting local communities, sourcing mindfully, in-house food production, engaging guests and designing a sense of place. These pillars have been built into the technical guidelines of building the lodge. 

One common belief is that building necessitates the destruction of land. But through its design principles, ENVI demonstrates different approaches that can be taken to minimize its presence within the natural landscape. The company builds low-impact lodges that blend into the environment. 

“We don’t do excavations,” said Nader. “We put our unit on stilts or decks, and we don’t build the units completely on the site so the amount of people and trucks on the site that have to come and go is very limited.”

An important element is also selecting materials from the environment, whether they be wood, rocks or mud, and sourcing materials and products that will maintain durability and integrity over time. 

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The company also champions sourcing a percentage of the ingredients used in its kitchens from in-house gardens, developing programs for wildlife protection and hiring staff from local communities, all of which are tailor-made programs for each lodge.

The whole concept is to assume the project is temporary, aiming to leave the landscape more or less in the same state it was found in. The walkways are not poured concrete, and the native species are planted to cross-pollinate.

Another way to stitch sustainable practices within the fabric of the community is to engage guests in the initiative.

“Today, guests don’t want to be spectators,” said Nader. “They don’t want to be told that the lodge is planting mangroves. They want to plant themselves. Guests want to clean the beach, or the lodges, to remove any litter and plastic and all of that. They want to be involved in saving wildlife and caring.”

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund recently launched Dan Company, which specializes in agritourism and ecotourism. Architecture and design practice LWK + Partners is working on a project with Dan Co. that aims to invigorate the agriculture industry in Al-Ahsa through hospitality, serving as a benchmark for future projects.

Ashar Valley’s Banyan Tree in AlUla has a plastic-free pledge as one of its key practices. The luxury brand is built on a sustainable ethos, committed to showing respect to its surroundings. (Supplied)

Kerem Cengiz, MENA managing director at LWK + Partners, told Arab News: “Sustainability isn’t just about the reduction of energy; sustainability is also about the way we create places that are harmoniously designed to make the way we interact with them sustainable. 

“We look at sustainability as a holistic offering, rather than a series of tick boxes that we need to achieve.

“It really is important that when we design, we don’t have a pattern book; it still saddens me that we’ve seen many buildings going up that are just glass towers. They express a certain language and vision, but are they desirable in the context of the challenges that we’re facing environmentally?”

He added that the key to bridging these sustainable values into the future of the industry is to focus on a fundamental understanding of technology and innovation. How do you put in sensors that turn off the AC when guests leave the room, for example?

InterContinental Al-Jubail’s commitment to sustainability includes eco-friendly deep cleaning, water and electricity conservation, and voluntary beach cleaning campaigns. (Supplied)

Saudi Arabia is leading the way in many development practices, said Cengiz. The Holiday Inn Tabuk is utilizing solar energy as an alternative power source in some locations, while the InterContinental Jubail carries out voluntary campaigns to clean its beaches.

Like Nader, Cengiz said that private and public developers should move towards sourcing materials that are locally or regionally available. This adds great value not only economically, but also sustainably, by cutting down on products imported from overseas, simultaneously reducing carbon emissions.

He added: “Now, Saudi is developing its own market and its own product lines. I think that, in itself, has a massive impact and I would love to see more attention on that type of thing.

“I think we’re way past the 2030 Vision now. I mean, we’re evolving it much further into something significantly more impactful.”