Saudi Arabia’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) has announced plans to invest $64bn (£46bn) to develop the kingdom’s entertainment sector over the next decade.
At a press conference GEA chief Ahmad bin Aqeel al-Khatib told reporters that infrastructure was already being built. The GEA aims to attract investors and producers to work in the kingdom to create entertainment venues and shows within a growing entertainment sector.
“God willing, you will see a real change by 2020.”
He added that the investment (both government and private) had already stimulated hundreds of business start ups and that over 5000 events are planned for 2018.
International acts like Maroon 5, Andrea Bocelli and Cirque du Soleil are among the big names to be enticed to perform in Saudi Arabia. Jeddah was host to the kingdom’s first ever Comic Con in 2017. An opera house is under construction and there are plans for a large “Entertainment City” near Riyadh which will include a Six Flags theme park and a safari attraction.
In September it was announced that the Saudi Arabia Public Investment Fund was forming a new company to oversee the development of the entertainment industry.
The kingdom is embarking on a programme of social and economic reforms driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman which will see significant cultural changes, including plans to allow women to drive and open businesses, and a repeal on the ban on cinemas.
Vision 2030 aims to diversify the economy in order to reduce the Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil as energy prices slump. 70 per cent of the population is under 30 years old, and many Saudis travel to Dubai or Bahrain for entertainment. A key element of the strategy for the future is to increase household spending on culture and entertainment within the kingdom. A new GEA campaign – Don’t Even Think of Traveling – encourages people to staycation and spend their money at local entertainment venues.