Saudi Entertainment Ventures (Seven), a wholly owned unit of the Public Investment Fund, is planning to invest 50 billion Saudi riyals ($13.3 billion) to develop 21 integrated entertainment destinations in 14 cities in Saudi Arabia as the Arab world’s largest economy continues to focus on diversifying away from oil.
The new destinations will be developed in partnership with major international brands such as Clip ‘n Climb, Warner Bros Discovery, Mattel, known for its Hot Wheels brand and Hasbro.
Construction on the first entertainment destination has started in the Al Hamra district of Riyadh, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.
“We believe that the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia is full of opportunities and plays an important role in the growth of the local economy,” said Abdullah AlDawood, chairman of Seven.
“It also forms a strong basis for creating jobs and is a strong driver for a large number of other economic sectors including the local tourism sector. We will provide opportunities for local SMEs, develop Saudi talent, localise technical expertise and transfer knowledge through our global partnerships.”
Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, is rapidly transforming its economy as it aims to reduce its dependence on oil, nurture domestic industries, boost jobs and diversify revenue.
The kingdom is developing a number of tourism projects, including Neom, a $500 billion futuristic city comprising a nature reserve, coral reefs and heritage sites on several islands along the Red Sea, and Qiddiya, a huge entertainment and sports project in Riyadh.
The Red Sea Development Company is also building a mega-tourism project on Saudi Arabia’s west coast.
Saudi Arabia approved a new tourism law this year to boost the development of the tourism sector and attract more investment. It seeks to raise the economic contribution of the tourism sector from 3 per cent of gross domestic product to 10 per cent by 2030.
Seven’s new entertainment destination in Al Hamra, which has an investment value of more than 3 billion riyals, is set on more than 90,000 square metres of land with a built-up area of 167,000 sq m. Among new features will be a 10-lane bowling alley, indoor skydiving, an indoor karting racetrack, cinemas, restaurants, cafes and shops, the company said.
An indoor adventure centre, an edutainment attraction offering a world of exploration, play and education, Clip 'n Climb, featuring 40 unique challenges, and a Transformers-themed, ride-based attraction will also be part of the new hub in Riyadh.
The company has awarded Indian conglomerate Shapoorji Pallonji to undertake the construction and management of the new destination, which is expected to attract 6 million visitors per year, boosting the tourism potential of the country.
“We are already executing multiple projects in Saudi Arabia and this project will certainly add significantly to our business portfolio and further establish our long-lasting legacy in Saudi Arabia,” said MD Saini, managing director and chief executive of Shapoorji Pallonji.
The kingdom's economy last year started to recovered from the coronavirus-induced slowdown, with economic activity also gaining momentum this year as oil prices rose.
Saudi Arabia's economy is forecast to grow 7.6 per cent this year, after expanding 3.2 per cent last year, according to the latest forecast by the International Monetary Fund.
It expanded by 8.6 per cent in the third quarter of 2022 on the back of higher oil prices, according to flash estimates by the kingdom's General Authority for Statistics last month (Gastat).