Travel Unpacked: Six Senses to open in Red Sea and AlUla reveals new airport design

The National rounds up the most interesting tourism news you might have missed

Six Senses Southern Dunes is set to open inland at The Red Sea. Photo: Foster+Partners
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In Saudi Arabia, Six Senses Southern Dunes opens to the public, while AlUla International Airport reveals its first terminal designs.

Around the world, top destinations for 2024 are named, while next year's best cruise ships are also awarded.

Here's a round-up of recent travel and tourism news – in case you missed it.

Six Senses to open in the Red Sea this week

Six Senses Southern Dunes, The Red Sea, opens its doors to the public on Wednesday. The hotel is the first to launch at The Red Sea, an ambitious regenerative tourism project located on Saudi Arabia's Red Sea coast.

The property is inspired by the area's Bedouin heritage. There are three restaurants celebrating the region's culinary culture that utilise freshly grown ingredients. As is standard for the brand, it will also incorporate wellness offerings that draw influence from local healing traditions.

Other features include a cooking school, Gelato Pod, a cinema under the stars, an outdoor pool, boutique, Alchemy Bar and herb gardens.

There are 36 guest rooms and suites, plus 40 pool villas ranging from one to four bedrooms. Amenities include sustainable toiletries, yoga mat, pillow menu and the Naturalmat organic mattress.

AlUla reveals new airport terminal design

The Royal Commission for AlUla has announced the winning design of the AlUla International Airport Terminal, which will feature a five-star hotel, spa and extensive selection of retail outlets.

The design, chosen from a competitive global bid, incorporates infrastructure that blends with its natural surroundings.

The airport is projected to increase passenger numbers from 400,000 to six million in its final phase, transforming the local community by drawing more travellers to AlUla.

Air Canada's inaugural flight from Vancouver arrives in Dubai

This weekend, Air Canada's first flight departed from Vancouver, arriving in Dubai after more than 14 hours.

“Dubai is an exciting destination for non-stop service to Vancouver International Airport,” said Tamara Vrooman, president and chief executive of Vancouver Airport Authority.

“This new Dubai service will also facilitate connections between Vancouver and the region, India and North Africa,” she added.

“We are thrilled to welcome this new route and connect Western Canada with the United Arab Emirates for the benefit of our community and the economy that supports it.”

The flight expands Air Canada's presence in Dubai, which has an existing daily service between the emirate and Toronto.

Lonely Planet names top 50 destinations for 2024

Travel publication Lonely Planet has announced its annual hotlist of trending destinations for the coming year, as voted for by staff, global correspondents and partners. The Best in Travel list has been expanded to include two new categories for best value and sustainable destinations, alongside best cities, countries and regions.

Spain tops the sustainable travel list as it has taken measures to boost off-season travel, expand renewable energy and put focus on overlooked areas.

America's Midwest tops the ranks for destinations that offer great value, which also includes Egypt and Algeria from the Mena region.

In the best cities category, coming in first is Nairobi in Kenya, which Etihad Airways plans to restart flights to from May. Izmir in Turkey also features on this list.

The best country is Mongolia, accompanied by Morocco, India, Uzbekistan and Pakistan. For regions, the Western Balkans' Trans Dinarica Cycle Route comes out on top. Swahili Coast in Tanzania is also recommended.

Eight locations named Wildlife Heritage Areas

World Animal Protection and World Cetacean Alliance have launched a new global programme to raise awareness of the way people view and understand wildlife.

Working with responsible travel businesses and wildlife charities, the organisations are designating Wild Heritage Areas, meeting an increasing demand from tourists to ethically see animals in the wild.

One of these areas is Santa Barbara Channel Whale Heritage Area, less than 200 kilometres from Los Angeles in the US. It's known for its thriving marine ecosystem and is home to more than 25 species of whales, dolphins and porpoises.

“Animals have the power to touch our hearts, inspire our minds and deepen our connection to the natural world,” said Holly Lohuis, co-director of SBCWHA. “By appreciating and protecting these magnificent cetaceans in their natural habitat, our hope is we not only enhance their lives but also cultivate an opportunity for tourists to understand and witness their responsibility towards keeping animals in the wild.”

Other Wildlife Heritage Areas have been launched in Peru, Colombia, Brazil, Italy, Australia, Portugal and South Africa.

Best cruise lines for 2024 awarded

The Best Cruise Lines rankings by US News & World Report have been released for the 10th year. It highlights 17 cruise lines that cater to a range of travellers, split into six categories, including those for best value, families, couples, luxury and in the Caribbean and Mediterranean.

Virgin Voyages comes in first in the Best Cruise Lines for the Money category for a second consecutive year. Celebrity Cruises and Princes Cruises round out the top three.

Disney Cruise Line placed top in the family list for the 10th year in a row, as well as the Caribbean category. It's particularly family-friendly since the ships host character meet-and-greets, themed dinners, night-time fireworks and dedicated children's activities.

Viking Ocean Cruises, meanwhile, took top in three categories: For couples, luxury and in the Mediterranean.

The rankings take into account expert evaluations of ship quality, traveller ratings, health assessment results and other relevant factors.

“This year has seen an enormous resurgence in the popularity of cruises,” said Nicola Wood, senior travel editor at US News. “After the unprecedented cruising shutdown during the peak of the pandemic, people are eager to sail the world's oceans and tour multiple destinations in a single trip.”

Updated: October 30, 2023, 9:42 AM