Saudi Arabia launches SR10 billion entertainment push

Saudi Arabia is seeking to boost its entertainment sector along the lines of neighboring Dubai, which has invested heavily in attractions such as the Sega Republic indoor theme park at Dubai Mall. (Shutterstock)
Updated 21 September 2017

Saudi Arabia launches SR10 billion entertainment push

LONDON: Saudi Arabia is set to launch a SR10 billion ($2.67 billion) entertain-ment company as it aims to create 22,000 jobs in the under-served sector.
The Public Investment Fund (PIF) said it was in the process of forming a company that will channel investments into developing the industry and enhance the Kingdom’s appeal as a tourism destination.
The PIF, which is overseeing the country’s shift to a more diversified economy, announced the launch of the Entertainment Investment Company with plans to expand the scope of the sector in line with Vision 2030.
“At the moment, many Saudis head to the likes of Dubai, where there are a lot of entertainment complexes and more things to do,” said Jason Tuvey, an economist at London-based Capital Economics.
The new company will focus on building local capacity and generating new employment opportunities that target the Kingdom’s young population.
The Entertainment Investment Company is expected to serve more than 50 million visitors annually, contributing around SR8 billion to the economy.
An initial sum of SR10 billion has been set aside to develop entertainment destinations across the country and provide incentives for the sector with a view to localizing large amounts of spending on entertainment outside the Kingdom.
With tourism arrivals expected to increase by 12.8 percent to reach 22.6 million in 2017, the Saudi government is keen to bring its entertainment offering in line with growth forecasts.
An ambitious plan to transform a 200-kilometer stretch of Red Sea coastline into luxury hotels and resorts is among a series of development projects in the pipeline to attract tourists and expand the Kingdom’s hospitality offering.
The project, which will include hotels, residential units and an airport, as well as a seaport and other transport links, spans 13,000 square miles, including 50 untouched islands off the Red Sea coast.
“Many Saudis currently get on a plane to go from Riyadh to Dubai, so I don’t see any reason why they wouldn’t get on a plane to go to the Red Sea coast,” Tuvey said.
At present, the majority of the Kingdom’s international visitors are religious tourists, with few overseas visitors coming for entertainment purposes.
Projects like this could help to diversify the country’s appeal and tap into new source markets.
At the launch last month, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Culture and Information Dr. Awad bin Saleh Al-Awad described the project as “an international tourist destination” and a “great addition to the development and renaissance projects in our country.”
Due for completion in 2022, the first phase of the Red Sea project is set to come online in the third quarter of 2019, making a $4 billion contribution to the economy.
According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, in 2016 the total contribution of travel and tourism to the economy amounted to SR244.6 billion, accounting for 10.2 percent of GDP, and is projected to rise to SR412 billion (11.1 percent of GDP) by 2027.


Big oil feels the heat on climate

Updated 22 January 2020

Big oil feels the heat on climate

  • Trump singles out ‘prophets of doom’ for attack as industry leader promises global forum: ‘We will be different’
  • Greenpeace told the Davos gathering that the world’s largest banks, funds and insurance companies had invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal

LONDON: Teenage environmental activist Greta Thunberg slammed inaction over climate change as the global oil industry found itself under intense scrutiny on the opening day of the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The teenage campaigner went head to head with US President Donald Trump, who dismissed climate “prophets of doom” in his speech.
She in turn shrugged off the US president’s pledge to join the economic forum’s initiative to plant 1 trillion trees to help capture carbon dioxide.
“Planting trees is good, of course, but it’s nowhere near enough,” Thunberg said. “It cannot replace mitigation. We need to start listening to the science and treat this crisis with the importance it deserves,” the 17-year-old said.
The 50th meeting of the World Economic Forum was dominated by the global threat posed by climate change and the carbon economy.
The environmental focus of Davos 2020 caps a year when carbon emissions from fossil fuels hit a record high, and the devastating effects of bushfires in Australia and other climate disasters dominated the news.
Oil company executives from the Gulf and elsewhere are in the spotlight at this year’s Davos meeting as they come under increased pressure to demonstrate how they are reducing their carbon footprint.
“We are not only fighting for our industry’s life but fighting for people to understand the things that we are doing,” said Vicki Hollub, CEO of Occidental, the US-based oil giant with extensive oil operations in the Gulf. “As an industry when we could be different — we will be different.”

‘Planting trees is good, but nowhere near enough,’ activist Greta Thunberg told Davos. (Shutterstock)

She said the company was getting close to being able to sequester significant volumes of CO2 in the US Permian Basin, the heartland of the American shale oil industry which is increasingly in competition with the conventional oil producers of the Arabian Gulf.
“The Permian Basin has the capacity to store 150 gigatons of CO2. That would be 28 years of emissions in the US. That’s the prize for us and that’s the opportunity. People say if you’re sequestering in an oil reservoir then you are producing more oil, but the reality is that it takes more CO2 to inject into a reservoir than the barrel of oil that it makes come out,” Hollub said.
The challenge Occidental and other oil companies face is to make investors understand what is happening in this area of carbon sequesteration, she added.
The investment community at Davos is also looking hard at the oil industry in the face of mounting investor concerns.
Greenpeace told the Davos gathering that the world’s largest banks, funds and insurance companies had invested $1.4 trillion in fossil fuel companies since the Paris climate deal. It accused some of these groups of failing to live up to the World Economic Forum goal of “improving the state of the world.”