King Abdullah Economic City to exploit entertainment boom in Saudi Arabia: Chief Fahd Al-Rasheed

King Abdullah Economic City to exploit entertainment boom in Saudi Arabia: Chief Fahd Al-Rasheed. (Ali Khamg)
Updated 12 April 2018
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King Abdullah Economic City to exploit entertainment boom in Saudi Arabia: Chief Fahd Al-Rasheed

  • Social and cultural aspects of the changes underway in Saudi Arabia were as significant as the economic transformation: Al-Rasheed
  • Music and other entertainment events had been behind the recent boom in visitors to KAEC

The King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC), the multibillion-dollar development on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, intends to exploit the opportunities presented by the Kingdom’s booming entertainment sector, the city’s chief executive said on Wednesday.

Speaking at the opening session of the Top CEO 2018 forum, Fahd Al-Rasheed said the social and cultural aspects of the changes underway in Saudi Arabia were as significant as the economic transformation, and that the KAEC could expect big commercial and financial benefits from the shift toward leisure and entertainment.

“All round the world, entertainment creates big economic benefits. KAEC wants to take part in that,” he said, speaking at the Bay La Sun Hotel resort-based event, adding that 10 million square meters of the KAEC area had recently been designated as land for entertainment development.

“We have one of the top maritime ports in the world, we have big oil and gas facilities, but you have to give people what they want,” he said.

Al-Rasheed, who has been the CEO of KAEC since it was launched in 2005, said that music and other entertainment events had been behind the recent boom in visitors to the 67 square mile development an hour’s drive outside Jeddah.

In 2015, there were just 10,000 visitors, but in 2017 the figure leaped to 370,000 for ticketed events, lured by new hotel and marina facilities as well as music concerts.

KAEC is planned as an industrial, commercial and residential development beside a new port on the Red Sea, but leisure and cultural aspects have been increasingly emphasized as part of the Kingdom’s commitment to social development under the Vision 2030 plan.

Al-Rasheed said entertainment was a significant factor in the economies of countries such as Britain, South Korea and China, but especially in the US, where 44.5 percent of total employment is related to the entertainment business, which generated $700 billion of value to America’s gross domestic product.

He also pointed out that many companies in entertainment were small-to-medium enterprises, which are a focus of the Saudi economic transformation, which aims to encourage entrepreneurship.

Al-Rasheed said big developments such as Neom, the $500-billion giga-project at the northern end of the Red Sea, were needed to accommodate the booming Saudi population.


Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

Updated 16 June 2019
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Saudi sources deny ‘unsubstantiated’ reports of permitting alcohol

  • “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,”SCTH source tells Arab News
  • The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia has no plans to allow the sale or public consumption of alcohol, a senior government source has told Arab News.

The official with access to relevant decision-makers categorically denied “unsubstantiated” media reports in some international and regional news outlets.

“If you read the fake news, you will notice it is all based on hearsay and tweets by accounts known to have a questionable agenda when talking about the Kingdom,” he said.

“As the country moves forward with its reform plans, we expect much speculation and attempts by critics to hold us back. And while people are allowed to speculate and criticize, their speculation should not be treated as the truth.”

A second source at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) also denied such reports. “The leadership has made it clear from day one; it is simply not happening,” he told Arab News. “I have not heard of any plans to allow alcohol in major cities, free zones or new projects.”

The SCTH is responsible for licensing and rating hotels and restaurants. Any plans for the sale or consumption of alcohol would have to go through the commission for implementation. 

Saudi Arabia has witnessed substantial social reforms over the past three years, such as the curbing of the previously unchecked power of the religious police, reopening cinemas and allowing women to drive.

There has also been a major shift on previously prohibited public entertainment and gender mixing. International artists including Mariah Carey, Yanni, Andrea Bocelli, Enrique Iglesias and Black Eyed Peas have all performed.

Tourism projects have included pop-up versions of international restaurants such as Signor Sassi, Nusr-Et and Nobu. None has served alcohol.

“Officials have repeatedly said all changes were and will always be in line with Islamic teachings and traditions,” the senior source told Arab News.