News Desk |
Ahmad bin Aqeel Al-Khatib, head of General Entertainment Authority announced Saudi Arabia’s ambitious plans to invest $64 billion in the entertainment industry over the next decade, as part of the Kingdom’s endeavors to attract foreign tourists and investors in the country, in a press conference held in Riyadh, on Thursday, February 22nd.
“We will invest 240 billion [Saudi] riyals over 10 years”, Al-Khateeb said, adding that Kingdom authorities already organized 2000 events in the year 2017. This year, the authority is planning around 5,500 entertainment events in 48 cities in Saudi Arabia, he informed.
The Kingdom has already begun the construction of its first opera house, he said. The investments will be partially funded by the government and the rest by investors.
Aqeel Al-Khatib, however, did not provide further details about how the money would be spent nor was the schedule of the cultural programmes provided. However, the announcement came after a series of events in recent months that included concerts, a comic-con festival and even a mixed-gender national day. Women will also be allowed to drive from June this year.
The plans are part of the Crown Prince Salman Bin Ahmed’s ‘Vision 2030′ which aims to open up the country for western investments to diversify their entirely oil-dependent economy.
Prince Muhammad bin Salman has vowed to return the country to ‘a moderate Islam’ that is still under the influence of conservative Islamist establishment. Movie theatres are also scheduled to open in Saudi Arabia in March after a 35-year ban on cinemas.
Saudi Arabia spends billion on entertainment in neighboring Bahrain and UAE which are easily accessible by road. Khatib has vowed to turn around this trend.
“I promise you I will reverse the migration, they will come from Dubai, Kuwait, and Bahrain to Saudi Arabia,” al-Khateeb said. He added that Bahraini citizens are already coming to Saudi Arabia for events, accounting for up to 10% of ticket sales.
“In the past, investors would go outside the kingdom to produce their work, and then showcase it back in Saudi Arabia”. “Today, change will happen and everything related to entertainment will be done here. God willing, you will see a real change by 2020”, Al-Khateeb said in the conclusion.