AlUla Is Saudi Arabia’s Best Kept Secret That Travellers In 2024 Need To Pin On Their Radars


Most foreign visitors and budding travellers are still unaware of AlUla, a booming travel destination and uncharted territory of sorts. The rich heritage and varied culture it humbly boasts of, is like a rare gem waiting to be discovered. And while there are still a lot of false beliefs floating about Saudi Arabia, the Royal Commission has taken upon itself to launch a campaign highlighting AlUla’s community, efforts undertaken under the sustainability mandate, the historical sites, and a lot more.

It is a remarkable site of natural and human legacy situated in North-West Saudi Arabia, approximately 1,100 km away from Riyadh. Covering 22,561 km², the enormous area features towering sandstone mountains, beautiful oasis valleys, and historic cultural heritage monuments that date back thousands of years to the time of the Lihyan and Nabataean dynasties. We caught up with Melaine deSouza, the executive director of marketing for the Royal Commission for AlUla to discuss all things culture, food and travel in pertinence to the place.

ELLE: Tell us something about yourself and your relationship with the royal commission of AlUla.

Melaine deSouza (MD):  I am the executive director of marketing for the Royal Commission for AlUla and I’ve been here now for 4 years. Truly a privilege to lead the marketing team to bring a destination to the world that has only been on offer for the last 4 and a half years.

ELLE: Why Mumbai, India? What makes it an integral location for you, to disseminate your campaign in?

MD: Well we have very high aspirations for the India market and obviously, Mumbai is one of the leading markets for us and here, our economic aspects are a great fit. And we do talk about ourselves as a luxury destination, not just in terms of price but you know in terms of the authenticity and the quality of what we have on offer, in this space of heritage, global significance, the arts and culture.

ELLE: What are the pillars of destination marketing and what pulls in the audience organically, to visit a location according to you?

MD: So, for me this is about having a very clear understanding about your audience. Who they are and what is important to them, what is going on in their lives and how you address your experience, your product, or whatever it is, that you are trying to sell, in a way where you can win their hearts and minds.
This is where AlUla with its very rich story, and stories that underpin that very story ultimately appeal to audience who are looking for something new and authentic. We have wonderful experiences and we are close, say 2 to 3 hours from Mumbai. We put a truly meaningful proposition in front of the customer, in this day and age where coming out of Covid, how we as humanity are embracing our environment.

How we are being much more conscious of our surroundings and in our case, about the natural built environment as well as these fantastic heritage sites that we have a huge accountability to, to ensure they are preserved and protected.

ELLE: What are your top travel predictions of 2024? In what ways is the new traveler evolving?

MD: Like I said earlier, it’s about how people are looking for new and authentic meaningful experiences you know, it’s very interesting across the board. I think that the hard mind between business and leisure is also starting to merge. People these days with their laptops and connectivity can work from anywhere and so I think people are looking for places where they can reconnect with their families, connect with themselves and experience everything holistically.

ELLE: Describe AlUla in 5 words.

MD: A Must Visit Ancient Oasis.

ELLE: Could you take our audience through the cuisine there?

MD: We have everything from Michelin star restaurants to local, cheap food trucks that celebrate Saudi cuisine. There’s this oasis to table concept prioritising sustainability practices that encourage our farmers to celebrate what is local, in terms of ingredients and products, whether it’s citrus or dates. We have 90 thousand tonnes of dates exported every year, can you imagine?

- Digital Fashion Writer


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