Saudi Arabia’s entertainment and leisure sector (E&L), a critical aspect of the kingdom’s broader hospitality and tourism industry, has great potential to contribute to the country’s economy in general.
“In 2019, approximately 19 million Saudi residents travelled outside of the Kingdom, 57% of whom travelled for leisure purposes and spent over SAR6,000 (AED5,875) per trip,” says Dunia Joulani, Director, Travel, Hospitality and Leisure at Deloitte.
“This indicates the scale of the opportunity and the potential impact on the economy should a portion of those travelers choose to spend on leisure within the Kingdom instead,” she adds.
Largely underserved, the E&L sector in Saudi Arabia has the potential to deliver projects that will generate revenues and attract local, regional and international tourists. This will in turn bolster the Kingdom’s aspirations to be a top global tourist destination as part of its Vision 2030 transformation agenda.
“Entertainment – and new tourism destinations such as Trojena – have a massive part to play in the Kingdom’s ongoing Vision 2030 transformation program, which aims to diversify its economy, drive new revenue streams, and create both opportunity and prosperity for its citizens,” says Philip Gullett, Executive Director, Trojena, a planned tourism destination in Saudi Arabia that will feature the first outdoor ski resort in the GCC.
Gullett estimates that Trojena will create more than 10,000 jobs and contribute SAR3 billion (AED2.9 billion) to the kingdom’s GDP by 2030.
But he notes that because the resort will have no off-season, “these figures will also include the economic activity of residents who choose to call Trojena home, or semi-permanent visitors, such as the growing number of global digital nomads, who might spend a month or two in Trojena on their way to somewhere else in the world.”
ENRICHING LOCAL E&L SCENE
Beyond these, however, Joulani believes the Kingdom’s E&L projects will also play a significant role in achieving other pillars of Vision 2030, including “increasing the quality of life of citizens through cultural and entertainment opportunities; increasing household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the Kingdom from the current level of three per cent to six per cent; and increasing the number of citizens and residents engaging in a wide variety of sports and leisure pursuits.”
Citing recent industry reports, Gullett confirms this growing appetite for entertainment and leisure pursuits within the Kingdom with “cinema revenues in the Kingdom expected to grow almost 28% annually to 2024 and be worth $1.5 billion by 2030.”
This is why he is confident that Trojena’s diverse and unique range of entertainment offers will appeal to Saudi nationals and residents. “The domestic Saudi market will no doubt prove important for us,” he says.
Meanwhile, Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN) is investing more than SAR50 billion (AED49 billion) to build 21 entertainment destinations which aim to provide a variety of entertainment experiences and global partnerships from within the sector. The upcoming projects are located in 14 cities across the Kingdom: Riyadh, Kharj, Makkah, Jeddah, Taif, Dammam, Khobar, Al Ahsa, Madinah, Yanbu, Abha, Jazan, Buraidah, and Tabuk.
Referencing industry reports, Joulani says “there are currently over 130 E&L and cultural projects in varying stages of planning and construction across the Kingdom, totaling AED3.3 billion in value. This includes a variety of projects ranging from large entertainment offerings such as theme parks to smaller cultural offerings such as museums within mixed-use destinations.”
With the depth and variety of E&L projects in Saudi, expect the upcoming thrills and excitement to level up the kingdom’s broader hospitality & tourism industry offerings in the future.