A street in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
PHOTO BY ARCHIVE
RIYADH – Bill Ernest, CEO of The Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN) on Sunday (March 24) revealed exciting prospects for Saudi Arabia’s entertainment and leisure sector.
Ernest, a former Disney executive and entertainment sector veteran, is heading up SEVEN, which is fully owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF), and behind Saudi Arabia’s first cinemas to open there in more than 35 years.
Delivering the keynote speech at Sunday’s Middle East and North Africa Leisure & Attractions Council (MENALAC) Leisure, Entertainment and Attractions Conference 2019 in Dubai, Ernest painted a vivid picture of the breathtakingly bright future for the sector both across the region and in the Kingdom.
Ernest told delegates that Saudi Arabia’s travel and tourism sector accounted for some 65 billion dollars of the Kingdom’s total GDP in 2016. The sector already contributes more than the automotive, manufacturing, agriculture and banking sectors.
He said travel and tourism in the Kingdom sustained over 1 million direct, indirect and induced jobs in 2016, and that the sector expanded by a massive 38.2 per cent between 1997 and 2016.
The CEO sketched out SEVEN’s plans for a massive multi-cluster family-friendly entertainment destination in Riyadh, including family-friendly entertainment destinations, 50 new cinemas inclusive of 450 screens, job creation and $64 billion investment.
Each entertainment destination will feature a cinema; augmented reality activities, green open areas equipped for sports and aquatic activities, entertainment and live shows and dining venues.
The Riyadh destination is planned as the first of many such family-friendly destinations, as part of the Kingdom’s ambitious 2030 Vision, a wide-reaching blueprint for diversification away from reliance on oil and gas revenues, he said.
Employment generation is a key tenet of the 2030 Vision, too.
The CEO said: “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.”
He said SEVEN’s owners, the Private Investment Fund, expect the company’s projects to serve more than 50 million visitors, provide more than 22,000 direct jobs and contribute to the GDP by approximately SAR 8 billion by 2030.
He stressed SEVEN’s key role in the new entertainment era sweeping the Kingdom: “Through our role as investor, developer and operator of various entertainment offerings Kingdom-wide, 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.”
“We are here to enhance the quality of life of Saudi nationals and residents and meet their recreational expectations and needs. Things are happening fast, and SEVEN is proudly a driving force of Saudi Arabia’s newest sector,” concluded the CEO. GAD/Expat Media
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