Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority has announced that restaurants and cafes can now apply for entertainment licenses to host music and comedy events.
The initiative, announced by GEA chairman Turki Al-Sheikh, is part of the Kingdom’s plans to ramp up its entertainment offerings this year. Al-Sheikh said that it is part of a wider plan to turn Saudi Arabia into one of the world’s top 10 entertainment destinations.
The GEA has entered into long-term contracts with over 100 local and international partners.
As reported in Arab News, Al-Sheikh said: “Competitions are an important element of entertainment. The most important will take place during Ramadan and will be of an Islamic nature.”
These competitions could include Quran recitations contests, and Al-Sheikh has announced a ‘Hijra journey contents’ that will see participants recreating a journey by the Prophet Mohammed for a SAR 1 million ($266,620) prize.
Other entertainment will include eSports events, concerts, plays, car ‘drifting’ competitions, stand-up comedy and magic shows, as well as exhibition football matches.
Other plans include the possibility of an NBA event, and plans to open a Madame Tussauds wax museum in 2019.
Al-Sheikh said: “Our religion is clear and we will adhere to our Islamic values. This is us. We used to be like this 40 years ago, now we are returning to what we had.”
“Entertainment is a sector we heavily rely on for Vision 2030 in realising our dreams. We won’t attain our goals unless we work together.”
There are 4 “giga projects” currently under construction in Saudi: Qiddiya, Al-Ula, Neom and the Red Sea Project. In September the Public Investment Fund announced a new uber-luxury resort called Amaala.
Saudi Arabia is moving ahead with the projects, despite recent controversies involving the Kingdom.
These investments, it is hoped, will support the diversification of Saudi Arabia’s leisure and tourism industry.
International tourism in Saudi Arabia is forecast to grow by 5.8% per year from 2018 to 2022, according to a report from BMI Research.