The Strategic Moves That Are Making Saudi Arabia’s Leisure Industry One To Watch

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Saudi Arabia’s evolving Leisure and Attractions market is a fascinating combination of traditional values and futuristic experiences

Dubai: When it comes to transformative action in the Middle East, Saudi Arabia’s story is an inspiring one. With a cultural shift at play, the Kingdom is increasingly pinning itself to the region’s Leisure and Attractions map while also being an excellent case study for the rest of the world. 

Encouraging its nationals and residents to explore the country, Saudi Arabia is also boosting its appeal to international visitors by simplifying visa processes. This is further bolstered by its host of budding properties and attractions. At this rate, Saudi Arabia is set to be the talk of the town and the talk of the world.

Rosa Tahmaseb, Secretary General at MENALAC comments, “Saudi Arabia is globally considered an impressive leisure market to watch. Positioning itself as much more than a pilgrimage destination, it has an exciting future ahead. From its giga-projects to its adoption of transformative technology, Saudi Arabia is on everyone’s radar – from the GCC to the region at large and beyond.”

So what experiences in the Kingdom are piquing visitor interest? Here’s some insight into the trends that are shaping its Leisure and Attractions industry.

Enhanced day-to-day leisure experiences

With the legalisation of cinemas in 2018, Saudi Arabia is on a mission to open 300 cinemas by 2030. Its existing cinemas perform so well that Saudi Arabia is the only country to grow year on year at the box office in 2020, according to Esquire Middle East. As a result, the revolutionary rise of cinema in Saudi Arabia is expected to have a positive ripple effect on hospitality venues. It’s also attracting business from the UAE with major brands planning to expand into the Kingdom’s burgeoning cinema market. 

During the cooler months, outdoor enthusiasts can also look forward to King Salman Park in Riyadh. The holistic park will house a 100,000 square metre entertainment and games area and a 140,000 square metre water sports section.

As Saudi Arabia’s leisure and entertainment industry rapidly expands, Mohammed Al Shethry, CEO of Osool Entertainment and MENALAC member shares what he is looking forward to, “The ongoing 2030 Vision developments have given us a taste of what the future holds for the Kingdom, and this has enlightened us to have a new and diverse purpose. Homegrown projects in the entertainment industry will not only increase awareness about, but will also impact, the global image of KSA”.

Paving its way into the future with technology

Enthusiastically embracing innovative technology, Saudi Arabia plans to heavily incorporate it into upcoming projects. Artificial intelligence and augmented reality will play a key role in user experience in the near future. 

Saudi Arabia will also be making great strides in technology with Neom, a multi-billion dollar futuristic city that will have areas dedicated to biotech, food manufacturing and technology, energy, and tourism; among several others.

The Kingdom is also notably the Gulf’s biggest adopter of 5G technology, according to internet intelligence firm Ookla. The incorporation of this technology will help multiple industries grow, including the Leisure and Attractions sector.

Turning residents into national tourists

Saudi Arabia has been on a drive to showcase its natural wonders to national, regional, and international tourists for years. Housing a UNESCO World Heritage site and a natural archipelago of 90 untouched islands; the Kingdom is in the midst of transforming them into stunning travel and leisure destinations.

The imminent launch of Al Qiddiya Entertainment City, a multi-billion dollar mega entertainment and sports project, is expected to attract local and international visitors as Saudi Arabia continues to diversify its revenue streams. 

Qiddiya will be known for its record-breaking parks and attractions; encompassing a diverse range of experiences which will include sports, wellness, motion, arts and culture, and nature. Its first phase is scheduled for an early debut in 2023.

A fusion of the past and the future 

Saudi Arabia’s generous investment in cultural endeavors has seen ambitious giga-projects come to life. The International Exhibition and Museum of the Life of the Prophet and Islamic Civilization in Madinah is one such project. The pioneering museum incorporates cutting-edge technology, backed by an extraordinary vision. 

The list of promising projects goes on with The Red Sea Project, a stunning fully-integrated, luxury, mixed-use resort that is also designed to be a first-of-its-kind global leader in sustainable tourism. Eco-tourists can expect zero waste-to-landfill-­policy, absolute carbon neutrality, and zero single-use plastic, according to a press release issued by The Red Sea Development Company.

When asked about what they’re most excited about when it comes to the leisure and attractions industry in Saudi Arabia, Brand Director at Safari Group and MENALAC member, Louay Chabayta shares, “The fact that the government is investing in the local tourism and entertainment industry as part of 2030 vision, with an optimistic plan to create over 100,000 jobs to drive the plan, and the progressive and drastic changes towards open and developed entertainment programs and activities throughout the seasons is incredibly promising. This new approach will open the door for innovative leisure and attraction ideas and projects”. 

He continues, “KSA’s entertainment market is relatively new, but growing at a rapid pace. The Kingdom’s population is one of the youngest in the world, and its population size is a great opportunity as well. Saudi Arabia also enjoys high purchase power and a great demand for leisure activities”. 

Safari Group operates Chuck-E-Cheese in Saudi Arabia, and Louay comments on the brand’s future plans, “As one of the leaders in the entertainment industry, we are well placed to support and gain from Saudi Arabia’s future plans. This is what drives our plans to double our market size in the Kingdom. We also have plans to launch initiatives in line with the 2030 vision, making Riyadh one of the top cities to lead this great growth, especially with the GEA’s initiatives to partner with the private sector to help take Vision 2030 forward”.

Working with MENA Leisure and Attractions industry stakeholders, the Middle East and North Africa Leisure & Attractions Council (MENALAC) is at the forefront of industry insights, news, and budding projects. 

MENALAC looks forward to taking its growing community to greater heights and continuing to offer incredible value to its valued members.

For more information about MENALAC, please visit www.menalac.org/en

About MENALAC:

Established in 2014, the Middle East and North Africa Leisure and Attractions Council (MENALAC) is a not-for-profit platform representing the Leisure, Entertainment and Attractions industry in the Middle East and North Africa. 

With over 470 operations and 200 brands from 22 countries in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region including Pakistan and Afghanistan, MENALAC offers great benefits to the industry as a platform for stakeholders to interact and stay informed. It has been set up under the aegis of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and the Dubai Association Centre in 2016 when leading companies within the region’s entertainment industry, including Theme Parks, Visitor Attractions, Water Parks and Family Entertainment Centres companies joined forces to form a council to support the growth and development of the industry.

The Council was established as a platform to promote safe operations, regional development, professional growth and commercial success of the amusement industry and to be an indispensable resource for the Council’s members and an international authority for the attraction industry.