RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is on the brink of a $64 billion entertainment revolution, a leisure business chief said on Sunday.
Projects in the pipeline will cater for more than 50 million visitors, create over 22,000 jobs and contribute over $2 billion to GDP by 2030, said Bill Ernest, chief executive of the Saudi Entertainment Ventures Co. (SEVEN).
Ernest, a former Disney executive and a veteran of the entertainment industry, is already behind SEVEN’s venture with AMC Group to open cinemas in the Kingdom, its first new film venues in over 35 years.
He told delegates at a conference in Dubai on Sunday that Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector accounted for about $65 billion of the Kingdom’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2016, making it more valuable than the automotive industry, manufacturing, agriculture and banking.
He said travel and tourism in the Kingdom sustained over a million jobs that year, and that the sector had expanded by 38.2 percent since 1997.
SEVEN is one of the first companies in Saudi Arabia to embrace government investment plans of $64 billion to develop entertainment over the next decade. Ernest sketched out SEVEN’s plans for the funds, giving details of a massive multi-cluster family entertainment destination in Riyadh.
Featuring cinemas, augmented reality activities, green open areas equipped for sports and aquatic activities, live show venues and restaurants, the Riyadh destination will be the first of many such projects planned across the country, as part of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 program.
Job creation, Ernest said, was key to the project’s viability. “Our offerings will create exciting new roles for ambitious young Saudi nationals. We will need to provide training in new skill sets.
“While employing locals, we also want to create friendly, awe-inspiring environments where Saudi nationals will want to spend quality time with their family and friends.
“SEVEN aims to be the leader in Saudi Arabia’s entertainment ecosystem. We aim to facilitate the presence of both international and local brands, and in doing so, become the national entertainment champion.”