AlUla, Saudi Arabia
The first phase of AlUla, Saudi Arabia's ambitious nature and heritage destination development, is scheduled for an October opening. Image Credit: Royal Commission for AlUla

Dubai: Saudi Arabia’s Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) has formed a partnership with French hotel chain Accor to develop AlUla as a nature and heritage destination.

It will see Accor operate an expanded Ashar Resort under the Banyan Tree brand. There will be 47 new units added, which will bring the resort’s total number to 82 villas, along with a spa and gourmet restaurants. The design will allows each villa to blend “discreetly” into the natural scenery of the Ashar valley, located 15km from the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra.

The deal was signed ahead of AlUla’s official opening as a year-round destination in October.

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The announcement refocuses AlUla’s investment potential as Saudi Arabia continues its economic diversification. By 2035, AlUla expects to host 2 million visitors annually, creating 38,000 new jobs.

Ashar valley is the location of the Maraya Hall, a multi-purpose exhibition, conference and entertainment venue and the largest mirrored structure in the world.

“The partnership agreement with Accor is part of a major series of capital projects and multiple investments made by RCU into fifteen plans in AlUla, many of which will be announced in the coming months," said Amr Al Madani, CEO of the Royal Commission for AlUla.

"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.”

French presence
Global partnerships represent a key part of RCU’s approach to drive economic growth through sustainable development in AlUla. The Accor agreement is also an extension of the destination's "enduring relationship" with French partners.
Last month was the two-year anniversary of AFALULA - the French Agency for AlUla Development - that has launched more than 51 joint projects.