ALULA — The Royal Commission for AlUla officially launched on Tuesday the AlUla Academy, which is tipped to be a ground-breaking initiative that aims to be a beacon across the region for excellence in vocational training in the tourism sector.

Hotel.School has been chosen as the academy’s global partner for hospitality training, and the partnership will begin in early July with an inaugural digital training program for the first group of students.

According to the commission officials, the academy will serve as a global hub for employees directly involved in creating memorable experiences for diverse groups of visitors to AlUla from around the world. Follow-up programs will be available through the academy’s website.

The Saudi authorities are carefully developing historic AlUla, an ancient oasis in the northwest of the Arabian Peninsula, as a global tourist destination distinguished by its more than 7,000-year history spanning several civilizations. It includes four major heritage sites and a wide selection of visitor experiences that offer tourists the opportunity to immerse themselves in the region’s rich heritage and culture, the Royal Commission said, adding that this also would take advantage of its wellness offerings, enjoy its beauty, enjoy nature, enjoy the arts, and embark on a journey of discovery.

The establishment of the academy therefore ranks as a pioneering venture in the field of tourism. It will also be a cornerstone of efforts to achieve the objectives of the Development and Diversification Plan under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, one of the objectives of which is to create 1.3 million people jobs for Saudi citizens.

Philip Jones, chief tourism officer of the commission, said: “Learning centers such as AlUla Academy play a vital role in creating employment and maintaining excellence in visitor experiences to international standards, all while maintaining an authentic Saudi essence. “Both physically and digitally, the AlUla Academy will accelerate the training process, improving the quality and efficiency of professional skills development, furthering the objectives of the tourism sector in the Kingdom,” he said.

The guests at the launch ceremony included Anita Mendiratta, special adviser to the UN Secretary General at the UN World Tourism Organization. Also a member of the Royal Commission Advisory Board between 2017 and 2023, and one of the key figures behind the academy’s development, she highlighted the organization’s steadfast commitment and dedication to improving visitor experiences through the development of local skills.

“The key to AlUla’s development lies in embracing authenticity and prioritizing community engagement,” she said. “The Royal Commission for AlUla understands that achieving tangible milestones requires investing in skills development, delivering services to international standards, yet infusing them with the distinctive essence of AlUla that encompasses the environment, the culture of its people and reflects their profound history,” Mendiratta added.

The commission noted that Hotel.School was carefully chosen as the global partner for AlUla Academy. This followed a rigorous selection process to identify the most suitable collaboration partner to strengthen its efforts and help achieve its objectives. To that end, it will provide intelligent education solutions and collaborate with developers of cutting-edge technologies to deliver a wide range of online learning experiences. More information about courses, registration procedures and student selection criteria will be available soon.

Adnan Sawadi, acting director of Hotel.School, said the institution is committed to supporting the committee in its mission to achieve excellence in vocational training in AlUla, the Kingdom and the wider region. “At Hotel.School we recognize that the vitality of the hospitality sector is its people, and we are proud of our vital role in nurturing and developing the skills essential to strengthening AlUla’s position as a global tourism and hospitality hub,” he said, adding: “Our commitment extends to fostering an educational environment that resonates with the region’s rich heritage, enhancing its cultural significance on the world stage.”

AlUla has received accolades and has been described as a beacon of success in tourism development and the improvement of local skills, the commission pointed out. It attracted 263,000 visitors in 2023 alone and has consistently exceeded targets set for it, bringing it increasing attention to leading event organizers, investors, development partners, airlines and the international media.

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