Both the government and the private sector will invest in entertainment
Saudi Arabia has announced it spend billions on building new entertainment venues and flying in Western acts, in a total overhaul of its entertainment sector as part of the social and economic reforms driven by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
At a press conference last Thursday in Riyadh, the General Entertainment Authority chief Ahmad bin Aqeel al-Khatib told reporters that the Kingdom is set to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector over the next decade.
“We have already begun building the infrastructure,” Khatib said, adding that ground had been broken for an opera house.
This announcement follows a series of events in recent months including concerts, a Comic-Con festival and national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets.
Late 2017, authorities also announced plans to lift a decades-old ban on cinemas this year, with over 300 cinemas expected to open by 2030.
The reforms are part of Prince Mohammed’s ambitious Vision 2030 programme, which seeks to diversify the Saudi economy away from oil and the entertainment sector is seen as a key potential source of growth.
Previously, Saudis have spent large amounts annually on movies and visits to amusement parks in the neighbouring tourist hubs of Dubai and Bahrain, the later of which is accessible by a land bridge.
Khatib has vowed to turn around that trend. “I went to Bahrain. The bridge is being reversed,” he said, adding that Bahraini nationals were now coming to Saudi Arabia for events – accounting for 10 percent of ticket sales in recent months.
The goal to keep Saudi nationals, more than half of whom are under 25, spending their disposable income at home is part of a wider campaign called “Don’t travel”.