Al Ula will be home to Saudi Arabia's first Banyan Tree resort.
The company will take over the Ashar Resort in the historic north-western city and the expanded property will offer luxury accommodation designed to complement the natural scenery of the valley.
The resort is about 15 kilometres from Hegra – a 52-hectare ancient city that was Saudi Arabia's first Unesco World Heritage site – and is also close to the Maraya entertainment venue, where artists such as Lionel Richie, Andrea Bocelli and Yanni recently performed.
The new resort, which has not yet been given an opening date, will have 82 villas, with 47 new builds offering a mix of one, two and three-bedroom spaces. These luxury tented villas will give guests a sense of privacy, with shaded outdoor spaces and private paths.
There will also be a spa with luxury wellness facilities, including a fully equipped gym and several swimming pools. A variety of restaurants will also give guests plenty of choice when it comes to dining.
The resort's design will be sensitive to the environment. Sand-coloured tones and sympathetic architectural features will ensure that villas blend into the surroundings.
With very low light pollution in the region, guests should be able to take advantage of Al Ula's epic stargazing opportunities and outdoor fire pits will keep everyone warm in the desert at night.
The resort is well located for visitors keen on visiting Maraya – the largest mirrored building in the world. Crafted from 9,740 square metres of reflective panels, the building was named the popular choice winner in the architecture and glass category at the 2020 Architizer A+ Awards.
Al Ula was to be a light-touch tourism destination with a focus on sustaining ecosystems and wildlife. The new partnership with Accor, Europe's biggest hospitality group and the parent company of Banyan Tree, is on brand.
Banyan Tree's efforts in sustainability are well-known, with all of its resorts following a worldwide plastic-free pledge and committing to creating value for the communities in which they operate.
“This new partnership demonstrates how Al Ula’s unique appeal as a cultural, heritage and nature destination fits with Accor’s Banyan Tree brand, which is synonymous with authentically unique experiences," said Amr Al Madani, chief executive of the Royal Commission for Al Ula.
"We’re working with the world’s best developers and hotel operators to deliver projects that complement our cultural oasis, as well as benefiting our local community."
The resort is one of several in development in the area, including three luxury properties by Aman. A resort in the Sharaan Nature Reserve is also being created by architect Jean Nouvel, who designed Louvre Abu Dhabi.
These resorts will make up some of the accommodation offerings for the two million annual visitors that the Royal Commission of Al Ula expects to host by 2035.
Is Al Ula open to tourists?
Al Ula was set to open to the world as a year-round destination from October this year. However, tourism visas for Saudi Arabia are currently suspended owing to the coronavirus pandemic.
The city, which is about 1,000km from Riyadh, is a place of extraordinary natural and human heritage. Al Ula province spans more than 20,000 square kilometres and has an oasis valley, towering sandstone mountains and ancient cultural heritage sites that date back thousands of years.
As well as being home to Hegra, the city of the Nabateans, and thousands of ancient rock art sites and inscriptions, Al Ula was the capital of the Dadan and Lihyan kingdoms.