Saudi king launches ambitious Qiddiya entertainment city project
LONDON - A little over a week after opening up its first movie theatres after a 35 years ban, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud launched on April 28th the ambitious Qiddiya project, an entertainment, sports and cultural destination, spanning an area of 334 square kilometres.
Saudi media reported that the project’s infrastructure cost would reach up to $8 billion and is set to be the region’s largest tourist and entertainment destination.
“Today, we invite investors, creators, and operators from around the world to explore what a one-of-a-kind project like Qiddiya has to offer,” CEO Michael Reininger said in his speech to over 300 hundred people in attendance, which included government officials, foreign dignitaries and businessmen.
“We will seek the best to help us, as we invent a new entertainment experience for all residents and visitors to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”
Saudi officials say construction of the first phase of project should be completed by 2022 and will include theme parks, motor sport facilities and a safari area.
According to government statistics approximately 7 million Saudis travel aboard for vacationing, the focus by the government on domestic entertainment initiatives hopes to get a peace of the lucrative market.
"About two-thirds of the Kingdom's population are under the age of 35. There is a great need for Qiddiya Project to provide them with entertainment.” Said Secretary General of the project Fahd bin Abdullah Tounsi.
“The project will save about $ 30 billion which will be used to develop the domestic economy and create new job opportunities for Saudi youths," he added.
While the project’s Chief Executive, Michael Reininger, said that "we are delighted to be a key contributor to boosting the Kingdom's economic development and investment, not only to the entertainment industry but also to projects that will develop the capabilities Saudi young people."
The Qiddiya project will include recreational options and sports and cultural activities in innovative design facilities including toy cities, recreation centers and sports facilities capable of hosting world-class competitions, training academies, desert and asphalt tracks for motor sports enthusiasts, water and snow recreation activities, outdoor adventure activities, safari and nature experiences as well as historical, cultural and scientific activities, according to the Saudi press agency.
With regards to the theme parks, Six Flags Entertainment Corporation was one of the first international firms to confirm participation in the ambitious project.
In May 2016, the kingdom set up the General Authority for Entertainment, tasked with putting together an entertainment industry from scratch. One of its first endeavours was signing a deal with the Six Flags Entertainment. Six Flags Chief Executive Officer and President John M. Duffey told the Al Arabiya news channel at the time, that his company was proud to enter this agreement to provide entertainment facilities for the kingdom, with a theme park that will cost $500 million.
The project was announced in April 2017, an initiative to be mostly funded by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund (PIF).
"God willing, this city will become a prominent cultural landmark and an important centre for meeting the future generation's recreational, cultural and social needs in the kingdom," said Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the PIF during the announcement.
Bin Salman explained that the project comes within the framework of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 economic reform plan, by creating quality and distinctive investments within the Kingdom that serve the country and its citizens.