Saudia Arabia’s ancient AlUla desert is the latest destination to be developed for tourism under the kingdom’s “Vision 2030” programme, chosen for its blend of nature, culture and heritage.
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There are some 15 local hospitality projects in the pipeline at present and works are attracting some of the biggest names in the business, including three hotly-anticipated Aman properties, a subterranean resort by French starchitect Jean Nouvel, and now a Banyan Tree luxury tented camp.
Banyan Tree will transform the former Ashar Resort with the addition of 47 new high-end tented suites (28 one-bedroom, 15 two-bedroom and four three-bedroom) and 35 renovated suites on a neighbouring site, bringing the total number of units to 82.
There will also be a spa with a rock pool, two garden pavilions and restaurants. The desert oasis will be located some 15km from the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra, and is expected to open at the end of the year.Sebastien Bazin, chairman and CEO of Accor, which has a strategic partnership with Banyan Tree, says: “In line with our commitment to grow Accor’s unique portfolio in Saudi Arabia, and as one of the first global hospitality groups to set foot in in the Kingdom, we are extremely proud to take part in the development of the historic county of AlUla, thus celebrating the Kingdom’s vast heritage and culture. We are very excited to be working on bringing our partner brand Banyan Tree’s unique sanctuary offering to the Ashar Resort.”
French architecture studio, AW² is leading the design, using a neutral palette reflective of the desert to ensure that tents blend seamlessly into the tranquil landscape of the Ashar valley.
According to Vogue, each villa will be a peaceful stand-alone haven blending both indoor and outdoor spaces… a scattering of cosy outdoor fire pits will also offer stargazers the perfect place to watch the night sky at one of the very few places in the region with zero light pollution.”Sustainability is high on the agenda too – Banyan Tree is renowned for its dedicated approach to protecting both the environment and the growth and development of its local communities so guests can expect initiatives such as the Plastic Free Pledge to be implemented across the resort.
Commenting on the agreements, the CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla, Amr AlMadani, says: “This new partnership demonstrates how AlUla’s unique appeal as a cultural, heritage and nature destination fits with Accor’s Banyan Tree brand, which is synonymous with authentically unique experiences. We’re working with the world’s best developers and hotel operators to deliver projects that complement our cultural oasis, as well as benefitting our local community.”
By 2035, the Royal Commission for AlUla expects the area to host two million visitors annually and create 38,000 new jobs for the community.
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