The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is set to lay the foundation stone on Saturday of a massive landmark entertainment hub southwest of Riyadh that will comprise high-end theme parks, motor sport facilities, and a safari park, all of which in hopes of attracting 17 million annual visitors by 2030.
The Qiddiya entertainment city, located 25 miles from the Saudi capital, will be on a 129 square mile site, which is almost the size of Las Vegas. It is one of the so-called “giga projects” financed by Saudi’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) in line with the Vision 2030 plan announced by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to wean the economy off oil and create jobs for young Saudis.
This plan has the stated objective of increasing household spending on entertainment from 2.9% to 6.0% of gross domestic product, according to press materials.
Former Disney and Florida East Coast Industries executive Michael Reininger has been appointed Qiddiya CEO.
King Salman Bin Abdul Aziz and the crown prince, who is also chairman of PIF, are expected to attend the Qiddiya ceremony which had been scheduled for Wednesday. It was postponed due to bad weather conditions on the scenic site which is characterized by a mix of desert, highlands, unique rock formations and striking cliffs. It’s about an hour drive from King Khalid International Airport.
Qiddiya is envisioned as a gigantic entertainment hub with facilities divided into six main components: amusement parks; sports tracks, auto and motorcycle racing areas on desert and asphalt tracks; indoor ski slopes and water parks; natural attractions; and cultural and heritage events. The project includes resorts, hotels, restaurants and residential units.
The inauguration ceremony on Saturday will mark the official launch of the project’s first phase of development planned to be completed in 2022.
U.S. theme parks group Six Flags earlier this month announced an agreement with PIF to develop and design a branded theme park within the multibillion Qiddiya project, details of which are being kept under wraps.
In a statement to official Saudi news agency SPA on Tuesday the Secretary General of the Foundation Council for the Qiddiya project, Fahd bin Abdullah Tounsi, underlined that roughly two-thirds of Saudi’s population of 32 million are under the age of 35 and noted that “there is a great need…to provide them with entertainment.”
He went on to point out that the project’s goal is to recapture about $30 billion currently spent annually by Saudi’s on tourism and entertainment outside the kingdom by stimulating Saudi’s to have more fun at home
Qiddiya is expected to create 57,000 jobs in Saudi by the end of 2030.
The inaugural ceremony for the ambitious entertainment city entertainment comes after the lifting last December of a 35-year religion-related ban on movie theaters which has led to a groundbreaking first post-ban screening on April 18 of Disney’s “Black Panther” in a new AMC-branded theatre in Riyadh.
In February the kingdom’s General Entertainment Authority (GEA) announced plans to pump $64 billion into the Saudi entertainment sector over the next decade.