Saudi Arabia unites with Accor for expanding and operating $20 billion Al-Ula tourism project

Published on : Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Saudi Arabia has joined hands with Europe’s biggest hotel group Accor for expanding and operating a resort at the $20 billion Al-Ula tourism project in the kingdom’s northwestern region, said the Royal Commission for the project.

Al-Ula is the site of an ancient civilization in a remote northwestern corner of the country, and is part of the plan by the world’s top crude exporter for expanding its economy away from oil and opening up after decades of seclusion.

Under this agreement, Accor will operate an expanded Ashar Resort under the Banyan Tree brand, with 47 new units bringing the resort’s total capacity to 82 high-end villas, along with a spa and several gourmet restaurants.

The project is located in the Ashar valley, 15 kms (9 miles) from the Kingdom’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, Hegra.

Saudi Arabia’s tourism minister had said in April that tourism could see a 35-45% decline this year due to measures taken by the Saudi government to combat the corona virus pandemic.

The ultra-conservative Muslim kingdom, off limits for decades, in recent years has relaxed strict social codes like segregation of men and women in public and women requiring wearing all-covering black robes or abayas.

Saudi Arabia closed its borders to foreign “umrah” pilgrims and tourists from at least 25 countries in late February. In March, it restricted all travel in and out of the country.

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