Saudi Arabia is working to enhance its position as a key regional sporting and entertainment destination by hosting a series of high-profile events, part of a strategy designed to boost the leisure sector’s contribution to GDP.
On February 3 the last putt was sunk at the Kingdom’s first professional golf tournament, the Saudi International, staged at the Royal Greens Golf and Country Club in King Abdullah Economic City.
The tournament, which was won by US golfer Dustin Johnson and boasted a strong international field, was part of the European Tour, and was broadcast worldwide via global television networks covering the event.
The success of the tournament will likely see more events staged in the future and serve to boost the broader recreation sector, according to Saeed Elgazar, the general manager of Royal Greens.
“The Kingdom has aimed to diversify its tourism offerings, and golf is another new untapped market with a lot of upside potential. I am confident the enthusiasm shown for this event can transfer and domino into other activities as the economy continues to transform,” he told OBG.
Alongside the golf tournament, the country has hosted a series of entertainment events in recent times, including a highly publicised performance by Mariah Carey in late January and a Formula E motor racing event in Riyadh the month prior, which also featured concerts from international acts David Guetta and the Black Eyed Peas.
See also: The Report – Saudia Arabia 2018
New strategy aims to turn Saudi Arabia into global entertainment hub
These events tie in with a newly launched strategy aimed at developing the country’s entertainment industry.
Unveiled on January 22 by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), the new blueprint for the entertainment sector aims to turn the Kingdom into one of the top-four entertainment destinations in Asia and top 10 globally. The announcement coincided with the launch of the “Enjoy_Saudi” events platform and mobile app, which will outline all entertainment, sport and cultural events to be held in the Kingdom.
To achieve these goals, the public and private sectors will have to work closely together to develop the entertainment sector and boost its contribution to the economy, Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al Sheikh, chairman of the GEA board, said upon the initiative’s launch.
The strategy includes plans for the construction of theatres and other cultural and performance-based art venues, support for local and international exhibitions and performances, the hosting of more sporting events and encouragement of less traditional sports such as e-gaming.
Looking further afield, these developments align with the government’s broader vision for Saudi society.
One of the goals set out in Vision 2030, the blueprint for social and economic advancement launched in 2016, is to increase household spending on cultural and entertainment activities to 6% of all outlays from the current level of 2.9%.
Expansion of leisure industry offers investment opportunities
The focus on expanding the entertainment and leisure industry is leading to increased investment opportunities for both foreign and domestic companies.
The GEA has signed preliminary agreements relating to the provision of services with international firms such as Italy’s Balich, which creates, designs and stages live events and shows; Japanese entertainment conglomerate Avex; and stage production firm Broadway Entertainment.
Meanwhile, the sports, tourism and entertainment sector has seen a surge in new local companies seeking to cater to the needs of an expanding market.
Some 500 new companies have been established in the past 12 months in the entertainment sector alone, Khaled Tash, deputy governor for marketing and communication at the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, told media in February.
He said that this trend is likely to continue, with many more tourism-related companies expected to enter the market in the short term as demand grows.
In particular, officials expect to see an increase in activity in various segments of the entertainment industry, both for the provision of content and event management, but also for support services as food, beverages, hospitality, ICT and construction.