On Saturday Saudi Arabia announced that it will build a 334 sq km Entertainment City just outside the capital, Riyadh. The entertainment and leisure destination will feature a Six Flags theme park and a safari together with sports, cultural and recreational facilities.

Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that The kingdom’s Public Investment Fund is the lead investor on the Entertainment City project. Additional funds will come from other local and international investors. The project will break ground in 2018 and open in 2022.

Entertainment City a Prominent Cultural Landmark

“This city will become, by God’s will, a prominent cultural landmark and an important centre for meeting the future generation’s recreational, cultural and social needs in the kingdom.”

Six Flags, the largest regional theme park company in the world is in talks with the Saudi government to build theme parks as part of the countrys Vision 2030 scheme. The aim of this is to expand the country’s entertainment sector.

Six Flag’ CEO at the time, Jim Reid-Anderson said that the plan was to build three parks in Saudi Arabia. Each would cost between $300m and $500m.

Prince Sultan bin Salman is the President of the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH). He said that Saudia Arabia will become ‘one of the biggest players’ in global tourism. Around SR3 billion ($800 million) of government funding has been ring-fenced to finance tourism projects in 2017. The sector is expected to create around 1.2 million jobs for Saudis.

Saudi’s General Entertainment Authority

Along with diverisfying the economy away from oil, part of the Vision 2030 reform programme is to rid the kingdom of its austere reputation.

However, developing the entertainment and leisure sector is is not without its challenges in the Islamic kingdom. Strict social codes, gender-segregation and cinemas and alcohol being banned will present obstacles as the economy and society develop.

As part of The kingdom’s drive to develop the leisure sector, The Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority was recently created. Board members include  Jonathan Tétrault from Cirque du Soleil and Thinkwell’s Joe Zenas.

For further insight into Saudi Arabia’s ambitions in the leisure sector see Destination Saudi – The Impact of Vision 2030.

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