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The future of tourism, culture shifting immersive storytelling

Ministry of Tourism, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Tellart created an immersive Experience Center for The Ministry of Tourism in Saudi Arabia at the heart of its newly refurbished headquarters in the Diplomatic Quarter of Riyadh. The ambition was to shift long-held perceptions of the country by introducing visitors to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's diverse people and landscapes, while positioning the country as a unique travel destination for future tourism in the region and the world.

As KSA dramatically transformed its tourist sector post-covid, many Saudis were discovering the many wonders of their home country for the first time. And with the introduction of a new international tourist visa, Saudis are creating a distinctive tourism sector to host travellers looking for unique cultural adventures, moments of human connection, and healing time spent close to nature.

With this in mind, Tellart’s design for the Experience Center set out to celebrate and reveal the deeply personal ways the country is experienced by its young people, women and men alike, and the cultural treasures and surprising landscapes that shape modern Saudi identity. Visitors are taken on a joyous and nuanced guest journey that immerses the senses through rich filmic storytelling and the use of interactive and spatial design to intimately connect visitors with transformational experiences and the country’s many treasures, seen through the eyes of local people.

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Spatial design that maximises the guest journey

The Experience Center is made of seven distinct spatial components. The experience, designed to maximise the allocated 250 sqm space to an innovative 1000 sqm experience, is designed for guests to travel in a loop through two circular rooms joined by two curved corridors.

The concept for the visitor flow has guests experiencing four rooms instead of two. In each room, guests encounter a Saudi person that guides them through a landscape meaningful to them, sharing the cultural or natural treasures they cherish.

The Encounter rooms are two circular rooms presenting an 360- degree audio visual cinematographic experience.

The Encounters are short interactive films of one minute each, where Saudi Arabia is presented through the lens of four different contexts: the City, the Desert, the Sea and the Mountains.

In these projection rooms, the doors and lights are automated, guiding guests through the experience.

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The Encounter Films: Saudis have something to share

Shattering stereotypes, our Encounter films show the energy of Saudi’s young people and traditional treasures coming together in ways that showcase a nation opening itself up globally in groundbreaking new ways. These films inspire transformational tourism experiences, celebrating deeper connections with the natural world and with one another.


The City Encounter The experience opens with a young Saudi artist, Moath Alofi who reveals a thriving creative culture in his cityscape of Riyadh that celebrates Saudi heritage and identity. His encounter reveals a city finding its voice through a young generation that is excited about its future.
Moath takes visitors on a journey through the rich tapestry of the city, where old meets new, punctuated by the evocative sights, sounds and human interactions that inspire his creative work. In the final seconds of the film, graphical elements scatter through the room like birds taking flight to lead guests through to the next room.

The Sea Encounter From the bustling streets of Riyadh, guests are taken to the coast of Neom where scuba divers Luljain and Abeer take visitors to dive with them through their favourite spots between Sanafir Island and Tiran Island. Visitors are shown a large school of small fish that scatter as they enter the frame. Viewers follow them into the dive where they point out sealife of all kinds — manta rays, sea turtles and fish swimming past soft corals, purposefully and respectfully leaving it untouched and undisturbed. Their treasure is the Red Sea. This encounter reveals the deep connection between people and nature, and the importance that Saudi people place on environmental stewardship.

Fish start appearing around the divers and a spotlight is projected on the floor at the guests’ feet. As guests step on the designated area, the fish scatter and regroup in response to each guest’s presence — as they would in real life — by simulating shoaling and schooling behaviour. At the end of the scene the fish swim towards the passageway, prompting guests to continue their journey.

The Desert Encounter Guests are bathed in a golden light to experience the sand desert Rub Al Khali under a blue sky. With the rhythmic beating of a drum and voices joining in, an intergenerational group of dancers in the desert appear onscreen. In the film, the dancers clap their hands, the lead of the dance chants and all chant back in response. The young leader welcomes us to join him in treasuring this dance. In the experience, the host invites guests to approach a designated spot on the floor, close to the projection wall. An outline of the guest appears on the screen, mirroring their body movement as if standing in the desert and dancing with the Saudi performers.

The Mountain Encounter The final Encounter film opens on a young woman climber, Arwa Santli, behind the wheel of her car driving us to her treasured mountains. Through split screens, guests follow her and another woman as they make their individual ways up to the top of Tanomah Mountain. One leisurely hikes the slopes, stopping to identify plants and smell flowers, while the other is closely focused on conquering the rock face.

A textured wall sculpture within the room reveals a dried flower display. A projection overlay attracts guests' attention towards it. The host invites guests to smell the flowers, a subtle scent that can be only experienced close up. Projected particles drift off the flower wall into the corridor, leading guests towards the egress.

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Interaction 

Each encounter film was paired with a specific interactive animation, layered momentarily, serving as either wayfinding or as an interactive moment of the Encounter film. These graphical representations are directly translated from specific elements found in each encounter.

"In 2019, Saudi Arabia opened its doors to international tourists for the first time. Prior to this milestone, travel to the country was only possible for religious purposes. Tourism inherently cultivates a more diverse social fabric and encourages the acceptance of other perspectives on the world. Recognising this, we seized the opportunity to contribute to progressive development through a people-centric project. The exhibition highlighted the colourful culture, local communities and nature of this diverse country and told stories through a cinematic, sensorial and interactive design experience."

Ries Straver, Partner, Executive Producer, Tellart

Project Data

Credits:

Tellart – Lead experience design
Design Lab Experience – Design consultant
Eissa Bougary – Cultural consultant
Neumann & Müller – AV Hardware supplier
Boomtown Productions – Film production