Constructing a Hotel Inside a Train

Constructing a Hotel Inside a Train

The Saudi Arabian National Railway Company has announced a deal to acquire a luxury tourist train from Italian firm Arsenal. The train, dubbed “Desert Dream”, valued at 200 million Saudi Riyals (around 53.3 million dollars), is set to arrive in Saudi Arabia by summer 2025. The first trip is planned for November of the same year.

Arsenal’s CEO, Paolo Baralta, revealed that the train will have the capacity to carry up to 82 passengers across approximately 40 Saudi-inspired rooms. Passengers will be able to book rooms for single or multiple night stays. He added that the production process has already begun.

The “Desert Dream” tourist train is expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia / Image: from the welcome to saudi website

It is estimated that ticket sales will commence by the end of the current year. The luxury trips will run from Riyadh and cover a 1,300 km route, passing through the King Salman Nature Reserve and the city of Korait, among other sites. The train route forms part of a broader plan proposed by US President Joe Biden to establish a transit corridor connecting Greece, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and India.

Dr. Yoel Gozhansky, head of the regional arena at the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), stated that Saudi Arabia aims to boost tourism, attract foreign investment, and promote quality tourism. This is in line with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s initiatives to develop tourist sites and present a moderate image of Islam to the world.

The project will increase competition for tourists

Since opening its doors to foreign tourism in 2019, Saudi Arabia has heavily invested in the tourism sector. Dr. Gozhansky explained that the country is now focusing on establishing liberal tourist cities around The Red Sea. The country has also recently opened liquor stores for foreigners, marking a significant shift in the traditionally conservative nation.

Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman / Photo: Associated Press, Bandar Aljaloud/Saudi Royal Palace

The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) reported a 56% increase in foreign tourist arrivals to Saudi Arabia in 2023 compared to 2019. The new tourist train is expected to boost this trend. Khaled Al-Malik, CEO of the Saudi National Railway Company, stated that the “Desert Dream” will offer visitors and citizens the opportunity to explore more of the kingdom. Saudi Arabia aims to attract 70 million foreign visitors by 2030, investing 800 billion dollars in the tourism industry over the next decade.

The “Desert Dream” project is expected to increase competition in the global tourist train market. Some of the popular routes include the “Orient Express” from Paris to Istanbul, the “Marrakesh Express” through Morocco’s Atlas Mountains, the “Trans-Siberian” train, and the “Royal Scotsman” in Scotland.

Another notable route is the “Silk Road Republics” line between Almaty (Kazakhstan) and Tashkent (Uzbekistan), where a two-week trip costs between 50 thousand dollars for the cheapest room and 105 thousand dollars for a suite.

Part of a broader trend in Saudi Arabia

In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been intensively developing its railway sector, particularly for pilgrims traveling to the holy Islamic sites. In 2018, the high-speed Harami railway was launched, connecting Mecca, Medina, and Jeddah Airport. The goal is to develop such advanced transportation throughout the kingdom, as expressed by Saudi Investment Minister Khaled Al-Falih when he announced plans to lay 8,000 km of railroads across the country.

Investments in the national railway company are already showing positive results, with growth recorded in 2023.

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