Saudi Arabia plans to set up an entertainment complex in Riyadh featuring live shows and sports activities in its latest venture to develop a local leisure industry, attract tourists and implement broad social reforms.
Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN), a wholly owned subsidiary of the kingdom's sovereign wealth fund, will develop the 100,000 square metre complex with cinemas, restaurants, water activities and family entertainment areas, the company said on its Twitter account, without disclosing the investment value.
"By 2020, a total of 20 entertainment complexes will be built around the kingdom," the company tweeted.
Saudi Arabia, Opec's biggest crude exporter, is implementing economic and social reforms to attract foreign investments and ween its economy off oil. Last year the kingdom staged its first Cirque du Soleil performance, hosted concerts by Western entertainers such as David Guetta and Enrique Iglesias, announced plans for an opera house, lifted a 30-year ban on cinemas and allowed women to drive.
Developing a local entertainment industry aims to redirect the flow of Saudi leisure spending abroad back into the kingdom. The new sector is part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s Vision 2030 economic overhaul plan to diversify non-oil revenues, modernise society and create jobs for young Saudis.
The Public Investment Fund, Saudi Arabia's sovereign wealth fund, created the company in 2017 with an initial capitalization of 10 billion riyals to act as an investment arm in the kingdom's entertainment sector. It hired ex-Disney executive Bill Ernest to run it.
PIF said it expects the company's projects will serve more than 50 million visitors a year, create more than 22,000 direct jobs and contribute an estimated 8 billion riyals to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) by 2030.
The fund is investing in mega-projects including the Qiddiya entertainment city featuring a Six Flags theme-park, AMC cinemas and tourism resorts on the Red Sea coast.
Saudi aims to generate 16.5 billion riyals (Dh16.15bn) in revenues and create 70,000 jobs from the entertainment industry by 2030, the General Entertainment Authority, told The National in October 2018.