STATE OF NATURE

Saudi Arabia 2020 | ENTERTAINMENT, CULTURE & SPORTS | INTERVIEW

Although few have been lucky enough to see them, Saudi Arabia boasts some of the most stunning landscapes and enchanting wildlife in the world. The Royal Commission for AlUla's mission is to preserve these wonders.

Amr AlMadani
BIOGRAPHY
Amr AlMadani was appointed CEO of RCU in 2017, bringing with him experience in building and operating start-up companies and growing businesses. He previously served as the founding CEO of the General Entertainment Authority and was also appointed president of the Saudi Arabian Ballooning Federation, the SAHAB Federation.

What have been the most recent developments to make AlUla accessible and operational?

For many years, the region of AlUla was a popular destination mostly because of its most famous site, Hegra (also known as Mada'in Saleh). But in 2017, RCU was established by Royal Decree under the leadership of our governor, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, with a remit to develop a long-term strategy to safeguard its precious landscapes and cultural heritage for future generations and share them with the world. From the start, we were acutely aware of our responsibility to AlUla and the important role we play in conserving its timeless heritage for future generations. Our goal is to build a team of talented individuals who share our values and passion for this mission. Since 2017, our team has grown exponentially, yet our values and mission have remained constant—I believe this is what makes us truly unique as an organization.

Is the regulatory side developing fast enough to attract international investors and meet their standards?

Vision 2030 has facilitated several positive regulatory developments, making Saudi a more attractive market for foreign investors. At the same time, we have been working hard to develop our own regulatory framework for RCU, in line with global best practices, to meet and exceed the standards of the international investment community.

How will you develop AlUla in an economically sustainable and environmentally sensitive way?

At RCU, we have placed the local community at the heart of everything we do. That means that when we talk about sustainability, we are committed to developing a sustainable local economy in AlUla. To drive long-term success, we must empower the local community to play a role in the economic development of the area. That is why we have established several initiatives to help us achieve this goal under the leadership of our governor, His Highness Prince Badr. In 2018, we successfully launched the first phase of our scholarship program that gave 160 students from AlUla the opportunity to pursue degrees at academic institutions around the world in France, the UK, and the US. We are also committed to preserving and ensuring the sustainability of AlUla's natural heritage and wildlife through many initiatives, including the establishment of the Global Fund for the Arabian Leopard. We believe it is our duty to champion the revitalization of the Arabian Leopard, a critically endangered subspecies once indigenous to AlUla. We recently signed a partnership agreement with Panthera—the global big cat conservation body—committing to investing USD20 million over the next 10 years on conservation measures, as one of the first of many planned international partnerships to bring the best minds in the world together in AlUla to safeguard its natural heritage and environment.

What will be the most noteworthy aspects of AlUla in the next 10 years?

We are developing AlUla to be an open living museum and creating something truly unique, an experience that integrates the natural and cultural heritage as one living environment. Statistics from the World Tourism Organization show that heritage and culture tourism is one of the largest growing sectors in all travel markets. Across all income levels, there is double-digit growth in people interested in visiting and engaging with local stories and assets in new and genuine ways. Today, people want to disconnect from their chaotic mainstream lives and reconnect with nature. They want to absorb culture, engage with locals, and savor their traditions—everything we do will seek to amplify these experiences and create something unparalleled in today's world of international travel and leisure. Our work alongside the people of AlUla represents the latest chapter in a history dating back over many millennia. And we will proudly continue as the custodians of the awe-inspiring beauty of AlUla and help the world discover more about this extraordinary and yet-to-be discovered masterpiece.