AlUla: “We don’t pretend to be building out a family destination”

AlUla recently launched its upcoming events and festival calendar for the upcoming year at the Theatre of Digital Arts.

From music festivals to art festivals to sports competitions, the destination is picking up speed with events and making its mark on the global map.

Campaign Middle East caught up with Melanie De Souza, the Executive Director of Destination Marketing at The Royal Commission for AlUla, who shares how the destination is progressing.

Melanie De Souza, Executive Director of Destination Marketing at Royal Commission of AlUla

The destination is popular, not only among the GCC countries but also has earned a significant amount of interest from other countries.

De Souza says that while she notices positive commentary in the region, she noticed that AlUla was a topic of discussion, even at a big luxury travel event in the United States.

“I couldn’t believe how all of the agents were gushing about how hot and trendy AlUla is. That’s a long haul market. 15 hours to New York. And the media and the travel trade are all gushing about AlUla and I’m thinking my team, there must have done such a brilliant job that even in a long haul market, it’s trending.”

The international market is a big focus for the destination, where the RCU has prioritised long haul markets in their targeting including the European markets, Australia, China and India.

Apart from the GCC, AlUla’s biggest visitors come from Europe. De Souza says that Europe is 11 per cent of her business. However, she adds, “Remember that this is a new destination destination and that we’ve come out of a post-covid era. So, it’s not like the countries are performing at their optimal, because they’re only just coming out this scenario.”

Though, she does say that the destination received a total of 31 per cent international traffic, last year.

Targeting the right audience

While the destination’s focus is on an international audience, the destination caters to different type of audiences. 

The luxe traveller is the destination’s biggest audience. “They’re people who are well-healed and they’ve traveled, and they know what they want,” says De Souza.

“Last year, over 60 per cent of our aircraft arrivals, not people, were private jets.”

While the destination is geared towards luxury travellers, they do have another audience – the experience seekers.

“There is what we would call an intrepid voyager and a wanderlust nomad. These are people who are a bit different. They’re more into the experience. The wanderlust nomads want to see themselves in Instagram and are very much about their own profiles. And the intrepid voyagers are people who want to be the first to visit a destination.”

She mentions that AlUla is definitely not a family destination. “We are not actively pursuing families. We don’t not welcome kids, but we don’t pretend to be building out a family destination.”

The destination also offers additional corporate and leisure offerings as well. “So, for people who want to have board meetings, smaller conferences, we are an ideal venue. Because here’s a [natural] setting, it frees the mind. And from a wellness perspective as well, we have people who want to just reconnect with themselves and   recharge.”

AlUla will be hosting a several  flagship festivals and events. Its events calendar includes festivals such as the return of Winter at Tantora, AlUla Wellness Festival, AlUla Arts Festival, AlUla Skies and Azimuth.

Located 1,100 km from Riyadh, in the North-West of Saudi Arabia, AlUla boasts a vast area which includes an oasis valley, sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites.