A – In the northwest of Saudi Arabia, and 200km from the Red Sea, Alula is located on the old ‘Incense Road’. This was a trade route that linked Arabia with the Mediterranean region. For centuries it was a geographical and cultural crossroads, a place of meetings and exchange. It attracted travelers from all over the world, and since 2020 has been doing so again. An ambitious regeneration plan aims to attract two million visitors by 2035 and make this the world’s largest living museum – a unique and global destination for arts, culture, heritage and nature tourism.
But, sadly, you have come to a biased source. We are among a growing number of travel industry professionals that will not recommend or book guests on behalf of the murderous Saudi Regime. We just cannot condone travel to a country that has exhibited such consistent levels of disrespect for women, members of the LGBT community, and Jewish travelers. The Saudis fund any number of anti-American schools worldwide.
Yes, they now envy the model of the United Arab Emirates as they have slowly moved from an oil-based to a more tourism-based economy. The Saudis have unlimited funds to do the same and we have little doubt that travel to the Kingdom, with the support of its government, will become extremely popular in the years to come. Arriving guests will stay in five-star+ hotels after flying over on a heavily subsidized Saudi airline. You will soon be seeing full color-spreads in consumer magazines and travel agents will be bombarded with free travel offers to personally experience all that the Kingdom offers.
But it is wise to remember who the Saudis are and what point of view they represent. We do not believe that spending tourist dollars in the country is morally justifiable and we will not support it.
In fairness, we strongly believe that Alula is a striking, truly memorable World Heritage site. The Saudis are going to try building a world-class tourism network in empty deserts. They have plans to build an entire city in a single straight line – a brand new engineering concept. We’d love to go there – but we won’t. We would love to help you plan this journey – but we won’t.
Too many in the travel industry believe that the growth of tourism will somehow create a kinder, gentler society based on acceptance of all people. We find little evidence of that in the real world. What tourism does is further line the pockets of those who promote tourism in places where prejudice and hate are the rule rather than the exception.
We do think you should visit Saudi Arabia. But we think you should do it via YouTube.