Many analysts expect that most countries, including Saudi Arabia, will reopen their skies during this quarter. However it is widely anticipated that traveling for tourism, hospitality and entertainment will not be as it was before the COVID-19 pandemic, as precautionary measures and restrictions remain in place in various destinations.
With that in mind, local tourism and entertainment will be an obvious destination for millions of nationals and residents these days and probably until the end of the year. Obviously, until giga and other projects are fully developed and completed, as most of us are in the country this summer celebrating the Eid Al-Adha break and with such hot weather too, there are a limited number of places we can escape to such as the beaches on the Red Sea or Arabian Gulf, and the breathtaking mountainous landscape of Asir.
In addition to the new entertainment centers announced by the Public Investment Fund including Qiddiya Entertainment City, the Red Sea Project, Amaala, AlUla, King Salman Park, Diriyah Gate Development and Riyadh Sport Boulevard, the Saudi Entertainment Ventures Company (SEVEN) was created.
SEVEN, which is headed by Bill Ernest, has a mandate to develop theme parks and entertainment centers around the country. Plans include 20 entertainment destinations, 50 cinemas and two large theme parks in prime locations across Saudi Arabia.
Each complex will feature entertainment and leisure choices including waterparks, cinemas, play areas, rides, other attractions and more. The complexes will position Saudi Arabia in the post COVID-19 era as an entertainment, culture and tourism hub for the region.
As part of its strategic business development activities to support key government initiatives and plans to boost economic drivers such as SEVEN and the $20 billion Tourism Development Fund headed by Qusai Al-Fakhri, BMG Financial Group is undertaking a comprehensive study for the capital structure to create world-class water parks in key cities across the country. The plan is to create water parks which meet the social demands of different family members. The branded product could be franchised by different public or private entities.
Furthermore, this initiative will be structured as a public-private partnership vehicle in association with local contractors and international operators coupled with an exit strategy via public listing. In my opinion, even though COVID-19 has had an unprecedented negative impact on many sectors, including hospitality and entertainment, over the next few years these sectors are expected to regain their market share and will benefit from local demand as well as an international one. I still believe that Saudi Arabia remains one of the game changers in the entertainment and tourism sectors.
Basil M.K. Al-Ghalayini is the chairman and CEO of BMG Financial Group.