Invited by a management consultancy firm, I spent a week in Al-‘Ula, northwest Saudi Arabia. Alongside a dozen international experts in design, art, and technology, we explored the region's provinces to devise creative strategies for local developments.
This experience was a rare chance to delve deeply into an under-explored area, collaborating with a group of exceptional minds to boost regional appeal to tourists.
Prior to the visit, I dedicated considerable time to studying the history and geopolitical landscape of Al Ula and Saudi Arabia broadly. My previous visit in 2016, during the early phases of Vision 2030, contrasted sharply with my return five years later, which was strikingly different.
There's valid debate over Saudi Arabia's human rights record, yet the region's profound sense of hospitality is unexpected. The Saudis are engaging, globally curious, and remarkably open to transformative changes in their kingdom.
In Al Ula, we traversed the terrain, brainstorming pitches to draw visitors. Each expert contributed diverse ideas, ranging from art installations and architectural marvels to competitions and nomadic trails. Every proposal was unique and highly inspiring, surpassing any preconceived notions I had.