JEDDAH: 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 Wednesday.
Speaking at the opening session of the TopCEO 2018 forum, Fahd Al-Rasheed, said the social and cultural aspects of the changes under way in Saudi Arabia were as significant as the economic transformation, and that KAEC could expect big commercial and financial benefits from the shift towards 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 10,000 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 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 this lept to 370,000 for ticketed events, lured by new hotel and marina facilities as well as 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 like Britain, South Korea and China, but especially in the USA, where 44.5 percent of total employment 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 in the small to medium enterprises, which are a focus of the Saudi economic transformation which aims to encourage entrepreneurship.
Al-Rasheed said big developments like Neom, the $500 billion giga-project at the northern end of the Red Sea, were needed to accommodate the booming Saudi population.