Former Visit Victoria marketing strategist lands role with Saudi Arabian cultural site

Experienced Australian marketer to become executive director of marketing for the AlUla heritage and cultural site

Melanie De Souza
Melanie De Souza

Former Visit Victoria general manager of digital, marketing services and strategy, Melanie De Souza, is relocating to Saudi Arabia to take up an executive marketing role at one of the world’s most significant forthcoming destinations.  

The experienced tourism and hospitality industry marketing and strategy leader spent 20 years with Tourism Victoria, which rebranded to Visit Victoria in July 2017, holding several roles including general manager of international marketing and director of marketing and airline services. It was De Souza’s work on helping the tourism entity define its new position and approach that saw her listed in the 2018 edition of the CMO50.  

Prior to this, she was director of sales and marketing for Oberoi Hotels and Resorts in Melbourne.  

De Souza now takes up the role of executive director of marketing with the Saudi Royal Commission of the forthcoming AlUla heritage and cultural site, based in Riyadh.   

The significant 6th century BC walled city site will be unveiled in October 2020 and at more than 29,000 square kilometres, represents the size of Belgium. As De Souza explained it, the site features dramatic landscapes and traces from civilisations past going back to the Nabateans with some relics dating back to the Bronze age, and corresponds to the old incense route.  

The AlUla project is worth $6 billion and represents one of three significant initiatives associated with Saudi's vision 2030 and the push to diversify the economy away from oil.    

De Souza told CMO she had been “truly blown away” by the site on a recent trip.  

“I feel truly privileged to be joining a classy outfit, with several expats on-board and a big job ahead on many fronts,” she said, adding there’s hefty marketing budget involved.  

“On my recent trip I gained first-hand appreciation of what working in Saudi as an expat woman would be like and a gauge on the living and working conditions. I am also conscious the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia country brand is challenged and we will need to address this as security, safety and human rights weigh heavily on people's minds in destination decision-making.”  

Currently, visas are largely restricted to the kingdom. But with 30 countries soon to be granted access to e-tourist visas, the opportunities are huge, De Souza said.  

“Overall, I’m excited about the opportunity and feel it's a once in the lifetime chance to shape a significant new global tourism experience - that should more than rival the likes of Machu Pichhu and Petra - and affect its marketing fortunes,” she said.  

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