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Saudi Arabia plans US$13.3bn investment into lifestyle destinations

Saudi Arabia, May 5, 2018

Saudi Arabia's government has revealed plans to invest SAR50bn (US$13.3bn, €11.2bn, £9.9bn) into entertainment, health, sports and education initiatives, as the country attempts to modernise and improve its citizens' quality of life.

Announced yesterday (3 May) by the Kingdom's General Entertainment Authority (GEA), it is understood that the investment will generate upward of 300,000 jobs by 2020.

“Government spending on the initiatives will total around 60 per cent of the investment, with 40 per cent from the private sector,” said Ahmed al-Khatib, GEA chair, speaking to Reuters.

“The entire benefit from this big spending will be for the private sector, and this supports the 2030 Vision that strengthens its role.”

Part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan – which like much of the Middle East is aiming to reduce reliance on oil – includes a relaxation of the rules on its entertainment sector in an area which traditionally has been ultra-conservative, with particularly harsh laws in relation to women's rights.

In the announcement, Khatib listed three theme parks, a waterpark, museums and more cinemas as part of the initiative. By 2030, Saudi Arabia wants to have more than 450 clubs providing a variety of cultural activities and events, with the aim of doubling household spending on recreation to 6 per cent.

Among projects announced, Six Flags has confirmed plans to develop its first theme park in Saudi Arabia as part of the Kingdom’s new entertainment destination in Qiddiya. National Geographic is also eyeing the market, with ambitions of expanding its Ocean Odyssey attractions, developing up to 10 new locations across Saudi Arabia. In March, plans were announced for the country’s first ever Museum of History of Science and Technology in Islam, and a Cultural Centre at the World Heritage site in Diriyah is currently under development, with designs by Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA). In July last year, the government allocated SAR9.9bn (US$2.6bn, €2.3bn, £2bn) to develop and rebuild the country’s tourism projects, with a number of initiatives approved.

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