Revealed: plans to transform Saudi’s Eastern Province into leisure hub

Saudi Entertainment Ventures (Seven), a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) on Wednesday announced the launch of its largest project to date, including its inaugural amusement park, which will cover an area of 1 million square metres.

Seven also revealed plans for six cinemas and three new entertainment destinations in the Eastern Province, where the amusement park will also be located in Al Aziziyah.

The new entertainment destinations will be located in Dammam, Khobar and Al Ahsa and will feature sports areas, movie theatres, green areas and water sports facilities similar to a entertainment destination underway in Riyadh, a statement said.

Seven said it is focusing on developing recreation and entertainment facilities in the Eastern Province, given its strategic tourism location, and a growing population of 4.9 million people.

The entertainment destination in Dammam will cover an area of 330,000 square metres, while the blueprint for nearby Khobar covers 360,000 square metres.

Seven chairman Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Dawood said: “Seven intends to convert the Eastern Province into an excellent entertainment destination in the Gulf, thanks to its strategic geographical location and the touristic significance attributed to the Eastern Province within the kingdom. Its stunning coasts, green oases and serene vast deserts, make it an attractive area for investment and development.”

Bill Ernest, CEO of Seven, added: “Seven is heralding in a new era of entertainment and leisure facilities for the people of Saudi Arabia, and visitors. Our amusement parks and entertainment facilities will also need the best talent from across Saudi Arabia, so we are looking for ambitious, talented and energetic staff across all sectors.

“Our strategy is to replicate amusement parks, entertainment areas and movie theatres across the kingdom, starting in Riyadh, and now into the Eastern Province. We are providing families with unrivalled new entertainment experiences.”

Entertainment forms a key pillar of Saudi Vision 2030, encouraging Saudi nationals to spend money in the kingdom rather than abroad.

A 2018 report from Flanders Investment and Trade noted that more than 4.5 million Saudis travel abroad annually, collectively spending nearly $25 billion on movies and amusement park visits in nearby Dubai or Bahrain, or even further afield.

To this end, Saudi Arabia has invested billions of dollars in projects that will keep Saudi nationals entertained at home, while at the same time creating investment and employment opportunitie in the country.

The kingdom’s Public Investment Fund has previously said that its combined entertainment projects – which will eventually be able to cater to more than 50 million visitors each year – will provide 22,000 direct jobs and contribute $2.13 billion to Saudi GDP by 2030.

Additionally, a forecast from PwC estimated that by 2030, total cinema revenue is expected to reach $1.5bn, based on the assumption that by then the kingdom will boast 2,600 cinema screens, or 6.6 screens per inhabitant.

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