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Saudi Arabia: tourism and entertainment, new economic spearheads?

Preparing for the "post-oil era" is one of the main concerns of Crown Prince Mohammed Ben Salmane, as well as one of the aims of the Vision 2030 plan, which has led to many reforms in the kingdom. In view of the speeches made at the MiSk Global Forum 2019, tourism and entertainment are at the heart of this strategy and are destined to become the spearheads of the Saudi economy.

Looking to the future, Saudi Arabia no longer counts the number of development projects underway on its territory. Between tourism, entertainment, history, archaeology, urban projects, the kingdom is undeniably effervescing.

John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Development Company, will certainly not say otherwise. This “super-project” of spatial planning aimed at creating a luxurious tourist offer on the country’s west coast represents an incredible development opportunity. “Tourism is a very important economic sector, it represents over 10 % of global GDP and employs 1 in 10 people worldwide. In Saudi Arabia today, tourism only represents 3.4 % so there is a huge scope for growth in that sector. For the youth of this country, we are going to create tourism facilities where we hope to welcome 100 000 000 visitors a year. That is going to create a need for over a million jobs”. Did somebody say colossal?

John Pagano, CEO of the Red Sea Development Company

Tourism as an economic driver

Said coast and archipelago – both magnificent – are not the only assets that the kingdom will bring out of its sleeve, explains Gérard Mestrallet, President of the French agency for AlUla, which is perhaps the most promising Saudi region in terms of tourism development. Around an already very successful project, focused on archaeology, history, nature, and even people, the company manager has high hopes. “It is foreseen in the Crown Prince’s Vision 2030 that tourism can represent 10% of GNP in 2030. 10% will represent $100 billion for a nascent activity,” he says, echoing the excitement that is omnipresent in the country.

Entertainment, this little exploited gold mine

The opening of the country is not only for tourists. The crowds at the MGF are a reflection of the Saudi people’s desire to open up to the world, especially through entertainment. The only witness to this is the success of Mario Centola, CEO of amusement park developer Six Flags, who is currently leading a project to open a park as part of Qiddiyah, the entertainment megaproject to be set up in Riyadh. “It will be the first Six Flags in the Middle East, I think the timing is perfect, we can already feel the change. We plan to employ between 800 and 1000 people in a nascent industry,” explains the manager, highlighting the opportunities open to the local population.

Mario Centola, CEO of amusement park developer Six Flags

It is certainly not Shinji Shimizu, producer with the historic Japanese animation development firm TOEI (and responsible for many successful projects, such as Interstella 5555), who will say the opposite, he who “believes that Saudi Arabia will work miracles in the field of animation, and in the manga industry, especially since it believes more in its abilities. The flowering of projects has only just begun…