This is a best prospect industry sector for this country. Includes a market overview and trade data.
Travel, Tourism, and Entertainment is a priority sector under Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic diversification initiative. The Saudi Arabian government aims to increase domestic household spending related to entertainment and leisure activities, and to transform the country into a major global travel destination.
The entertainment sector perhaps more than any other reflects the remarkable transformation of Saudi Arabia during the past five years. In 2018, the government ended the 30-year ban on cinemas. By the end of 2021, there were 45 movie theaters in Saudi Arabia that had presented more than 1,000 films, and the inaugural edition of the Red Sea International Film Festival featured 138 films and shorts from 67 countries in 34 languages. Additionally, there are plans to build a media city in order to create a multiservice media ecosystem to support and enable content and talent creation.
The progressive opening of the entertainment sector has spurred an ambitious construction pipeline of movie theatres, theme parks, live mega events, and sports-related infrastructure. The $500 million purchase of a 5.7 percent stake in Live Nation by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund signaled how ambitious the government is to support growth in this sector. Moreover, the tremendous success of Saudi Seasons – an annual series of festivals across cities offering pop concerts, car races, pop-up restaurants, auto shows, and other entertainment programs – indicates the pent-up demand in this sector. The General Entertainment Authority has pledged to invest up to $64 billion by 2028 to develop Saudi Arabia’s domestic entertainment sector.
The entertainment sector has achieved impressive growth over the past five years: 2,189 new licenses,1,809 new permits, and more than 2,500 events that drew over 80 million attendees through the end of 2021. In addition, this sector saw the creation of more than 100,000 jobs, and more than 1,000 companies are working in this sector.
On the tourism front, Saudi Arabia plans to welcome over 100 million visitors annually by 2030. To this end, it has implemented numerous initiatives including an e-visa system for citizens of 49 countries, the opening of its UNESCO World Heritage sites, the construction of resorts on its Red Sea coast, and the launch of a cruise line. In 2020, the Ministry of Tourism announced that it would invest up to $4 billion into bolstering the tourism industry by launching the new Tourism Development Fund. The Ministry also stated that it would actively work with private sector investors to capitalize on new growth opportunities over the coming years as tourism enters a post-COVID pandemic rebound phase.
Key Players in this Sector
- Ministry of Tourism
- Saudi Tourism Authority: The official promoter of Visit Saudi, this government entity was established to support the growth of the travel and tourism sector by serving the needs of tourism companies and other commercial partners.
- Tourism Development Fund: This fund is responsible for attracting and supporting investments and providing the support to incentivize development of the tourism ecosystem.
- General Entertainment Authority: This government entity’s mandate is to develop the entertainment sector and its infrastructure.
- Saudi Entertainment Ventures: The entity is the implementation and investment arm of the Public Investment Fund dedicated to the entertainment sector.
- General Commission for Audiovisual Media: This commission is tasked with the development, regulation, and supervision of audio-visual media transmission and content within the country.
- Ministry of Culture and Culture Commissions: This ministry is focused on developing Saudi Arabia’s visual arts, performing arts, film and music.
- General Sport Authority: This authority is responsible for elite international-level sports down to grassroots development level.
- Saudi Convention & Exhibition General Authority: This authority is concerned with developing the exhibitions and conferences industry to make Saudi an international center for exhibitions.
Currently, religious tourism remains the largest economic contributor in the tourism sector. To increase the benefits that stem from religious pilgrimages, the government aims to increase its capacity to accommodate more Hajj and Umrah visitors – from approximately 10 million visitors per year in 2019 to over 30 million by 2030. This is expected to increase the demand for hotels and other tourist services in Mecca and Medina.
The Red Sea Project aims to be a world-class tourism destination offering pristine beaches, leisure and entertainment amenities, natural reserve of marine life, and dormant volcanoes and mountains. The first phase is set to be completed in 2023 and will see the establishment of 16 hotels, an airport, yacht marinas, and other leisure facilities. The project is in a special economic zone, with its own legislative and regulatory system, strategic location, and streamlined visa requirements to ensure the destination is inviting to travelers throughout the year, who are expected to reach one million a year by 2035. Also called the Riviera of the Middle East, Amaala is an ultra-luxury tourism destination located on the northwestern coast of Saudi Arabia. Focused on art, wellness, and lifestyle, Amaala will be a destination for the connoisseurs of fine living, targeting the world’s top 2.5 million ultra-high net worth travelers. Spread over an area of 3,800 square kilometers, upon completion it will have 2,500 luxury hotel rooms, 700 residential villas and apartments, and a golf course.
Cultural Heritage Sites
The city of Al Ula, home to Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site, is located in the northwestern region of the country and features historical and cultural assets such as Mada’in Saleh, the second largest Nabatean heritage site after Jordan’s Petra. The Saudi government is transforming the city into a cultural, eco-tourism destination that is expected to offer various recreational activities including sightseeing, hiking, camping, and other desert-friendly sports and festivals. Closer to Riyadh, the historic city of Diriyah will showcase Saudi Arabia’s 300-plus years of culture and history by delivering one-of-a-kind, inspiring heritage experiences, educational and cultural opportunities, world-class residential living, and outstanding lifestyle offerings including shopping, entertainment, and dining experiences. At the heart of the development are the At-Turaif UNESCO World Heritage Site, an iconic mud-brick city, and the home of the First House of the Al Saud family and capital of the First Saudi State, preserved and restored for future generations. Diriyah will offer 20 luxury hotels, over one hundred cafes and restaurants, eight museums and galleries, a golf course, and a racetrack.
Entertainment and Sports Venues
Qiddiya is planned to be the world’s largest entertainment city, almost three times bigger than Walt Disney World. It will feature over 300 leisure and entertainment facilities, including a 20,000-seat clifftop stadium, motorsports facilities, the world’s largest Six Flags theme park, a world-class waterpark, golf courses, cinemas, and a performing arts theatre. Qiddiya aims to attract over 14 million visitors per year.
The New Jeddah Downtown project requires the construction of a mixed-use development spread over an area of five square kilometers. This development project will turn the waterfront area into a tourist destination, featuring museums, shopping and commercial areas, parks, resorts and beaches, and will support Jeddah’s ambition to become one of the world’s top 100 cities. In total, the project will deliver over 12,000 housing units to accommodate 58,000 new residents, as well as 36,000 new jobs.
At four times the size of New York City’s Central Park, King Salman Park in Riyadh is envisioned as the “Green Heart” of Riyadh and the largest urban park in the world. It will include residential compounds, hotels, retail space, an arts complex, theatres, museums, cinemas, sports venues, water features, restaurants, and an 18-hole golf course.
The Sports Boulevard in Riyadh will stretch 135 kilometers from end-to-end and feature green pedestrian pathways, cycling lanes, horse-riding tracks, arts centers, museums, studios, libraries, conference halls, and indoor sports facilities.
Investment opportunities in stadium development, sports, football and games solutions are expected to increase, creating more opportunities for private and foreign partnerships. Saudi Arabia aims to create and host world class sporting events, attracting globally respected sporting brands, championships and events to Saudi Arabia. It has hosted the Diriyah ePrix, the PGA European Tour, the WWE Crown Jewel, the Clash on the Dunes Boxing Heavyweight Title Fight, the Saudi Cup Horse Race, and the Saudi Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Saudi Arabia’s billion-dollar gaming industry is expected to double in the next three years. Saudi Arabia has 23.5 million gaming enthusiasts, or 67 percent of the total population Gaming consumption is expected to grow from $959 million in 2020 to $6.8 billion in 2030The Public Investment Fund has acquired more than $3 billion-worth of stock in U.S. video game makers Activision Blizzard, Electronic Arts, and Take-Two Interactive Software.
- Workforce talent development across all travel, tourism, food & beverage, and entertainment sectors
- Consulting, master planning, management, production and concept design of family entertainment centers, theme parks, water parks, aquariums, museums, car racing tracks
- Hotel build, infrastructure, technology and consultancy services
- Hotel equipment, furniture, restaurant and kitchen equipment, bathroom accessories
- Spa and fitness equipment, water sports equipment, specialized equipment for remote (off-grid) lodging
- Facilities management
- Destination management companies; tour packaging services especially in niche segments
- Hospitality franchise, concession development and operations
- Major branded attractions, events, exhibitions, and live shows
- Integrated solutions for the cinema industry and film production, broadcasting, digitization, content development, audiovisual and acoustics equipment, studio engineering and management, and talent procurement (actors, models and performers)
- Stadium development, sports fields, and other sports venues
- Education in design and development of gaming software and applications
- Ministry of Tourism
- Saudi Tourism Authority
- Tourism Development Fund
- General Entertainment Authority
- Saudi Entertainment Ventures
- General Commission for Audiovisual Media
- Ministry of Culture and Culture Commissions
- General Sport Authority
- Saudi Convention & Exhibition General Authority
- The Hotel Show Saudi Arabia
- Arabian Travel Market
- Saudi Entertainment and Amusement Expo
- Saudi International Media & Broadcast Expo
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