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Crossing the desert may become even more appealing.
National railway company Saudi Arabian Railways (SAR) recently signed a 200 million Saudi riyal ($53.33 million) contract with Italian hospitality company Arsenale Group to operate the Middle East kingdom’s first luxury train fleet.
Saudi Arabia officially opened its doors to international tourists in a “historic moment” in 2019, and since then the Middle Eastern kingdom has been pulling out all the stops to woo visitors.
The destination has seen a number of high-profile tourism investments in recent years. $500 billion model city Among them is the desert in northwest Saudi Arabia.
Now, Saudi Arabia is jumping into the slow travel movement in a big way by entering the luxury train market.
According to Saudi state media, the new trains are scheduled to start operating at the end of 2025. desert dream According to a press release issued by SAR last week, the company will offer a “luxury train cruise” journey from the capital Riyadh to Qurayyat, located near the northern border with Jordan.
The 1,300-kilometer route will cross Saudi Arabia’s beautiful desert landscape and the city of Hail.
The “fully customized” train, consisting of 40 luxury cabins with a design inspired by “Saudi style and tradition”, is already under construction and reservations are expected to open at the end of the year.
It will be possible to book one- or two-night trips, with a maximum capacity of 82 passengers, said Paolo Valletta, CEO of Arsenal.
“The initial production stages of the ‘Desert Dream’ train have recently begun in Italy, and we can’t wait to see the debut of the first trains in the Kingdom in the coming years,” Valletta said in an official statement.
Arsenale SPA/Saudi Railways
A “fully customized” train consisting of 40 luxury cabins is already under construction.
Saudi Arabia’s decision to enter the luxury train market comes as demand for high-speed trains and luxury ‘rail cruises’ continues to grow around the world.
Many countries have invested millions and even billions of dollars in new infrastructure as customers seek short-distance trips and more sustainable alternatives to congested highways.
president of the united states Joe Biden pledged $30 billion for rail projects and upgrades Meanwhile, France plans to invest around 100 billion euros ($106 billion) in rail travel by 2040 to strengthen its rail network, according to Reuters.
Service in Saudi Arabia is expected to launch about a year after .Orient Express – La Dolce Vita,” is a collaboration between Arsenale Group and Accor Group.
Renderings of the 11-car train, inspired by the La Dolce Vita era of the 1960s, will be released in 2021 and feature 12 “deluxe cabins,” 18 suites, and an “honor suite.” The incredibly luxurious interior has been revealed. And the restaurant’s horse-drawn carriage.
“Rail travel is a more environmentally friendly transport option that enhances travel not only to big cities, but also to small and medium-sized places with attractive cultural sights and landscapes,” says Ferrovi, the Italian national railway company. -Luigi Corradi, CEO and General Manager of Trenitalia, part of Dello Stato. said in a statement at the time.
News of the upcoming Dream of the Desert comes almost six years after the release of Dream of the Desert. Haramain high-speed railway in Saudi ArabiaIn 2018, it connected the holy cities of Mecca and Medina with King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah.
Arsenale SPA/Saudi Railways
A rendering of the completed Dream of the Desert, the Middle East’s first luxury train.
The rail network, which will run trains at speeds of up to 300 km/h (186 mph), is expected to eventually stretch across the Middle East kingdom.
Improvements are also being made to existing lines in the north-west of the country, which will provide more high-speed services.
Back in January 2022, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Investment Khalid Al Falih announced plans to build 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) of railways across the country.
And further developments are likely to be announced in the coming months as the Middle East kingdom moves full steam ahead to boost its tourism sector, diversify its economy and reduce its dependence on oil revenues.
Saudi Arabia plans to invest $800 billion It aims to enter the tourism industry over the next 10 years and attract 70 million foreign tourists a year by 2030.
Projects currently underway include a brand new luxury regenerated tourist destination along the river. red sea coast And NEOM, a futuristic city being built from scratch in the desert of northwestern Saudi Arabia.
Arsenale SPA/Saudi Railways
This kilometer route will cross Saudi Arabia’s stunning desert landscape and the city of Hail.
Recent numbers suggest these efforts are bearing fruit.
According to UNWTOThe country reported a 56% increase in international arrivals in 2023 from 2019 pre-pandemic levels.
The Saudi Railway Company has committed to the government program known as. saudi vision 2030 It aims to diversify the country’s economy over the next 10 years, stressing that the development of the tourism and cultural sector is “one of the most important objectives”.
Bashar bin Khaled Al Malik, CEO of SAR, said Dream of the Desert will be an important addition to the company, offering “luxury transportation” to both visitors and residents. “We are confident that this will provide an opportunity to further discover the regions of the Kingdom within an integrated framework of means.” service. ”
The Desert Dream is therefore comparable to the Orient Express La Dolce Vita, the Venice Simplon Orient Express that runs from London to Venice, and even one of Japan’s most luxurious trains, the Seven Stars Inn Kyushu. It will be very impressive.
We’ll have to wait and see. But it’s clear that SAR has high hopes for this ambitious concept.
“The signing of this Memorandum of Understanding [memorandum of understanding] “The operation between SAR and Arsenal is considered the first step in introducing a luxury rail travel experience to the tourism market,” said Al Malik.
CNN’s Lilit Marcus and Ben Jones contributed to this article.