Jeddah: Model of Saudi Arabia’s flourishing entertainment sector

Yazeed Hijazi

By Yazeed Hijazi*

SIX months on, we have already seen much progress following Saudi Arabia’s announcement earlier this year that it will pump billions of dollars into the Kingdom’s entertainment sector. In an effort to capture up to a quarter of the $20 billion currently spent overseas every year by Saudis seeking entertainment, the country is aiming to become not only one of the top four entertainment destinations in Asia but also amongst the top ten worldwide. This only means one thing for the real estate sector - exponential growth.

This is especially true in Jeddah where the 41-day Jeddah Season Festival has been taking place. The event saw more 150 events taking place, including the region’s largest live musical event, the Jeddah World Fest. Taking place beside the King Abdullah Sports City Stadium and featuring the largest stage ever produced in the Middle East, the festival has witnessed performances from international music superstars Liam Payne, Steve Aoki, and more.

The sudden attention that the entertainment sector is receiving in the country is further stimulating the nation’s ever-growing economy. Attracting world-class acts and sporting events to the Kingdom was an important first step but building the facilities to support the industry is what comes next. In this area, Saudi Arabia has made tremendous strides, with the introduction of key F&B players such as Coya, Zuma and Nobu in Jeddah, for example. The Jeddah Season Festival has also managed to attract new tourists and enable residents to see the city in a new light, specifically with the activities at Al-Balad, the historical area of Jeddah.

The ultimate goal is for the younger generations of Saudis – who make up more than 60% of the population – to stay in the country for leisure and entertainment purposes as opposed to travelling to other GCC countries to satisfy that need. If Saudi Arabia is successful in creating a thriving entertainment hub, domestic spending on entertainment, leisure and even tourism is expected to increase. The F&B, hospitality and retail sectors are also set to enjoy sustained growth due to tourism and investment in the entertainment sector.

The opportunities for growth are limitless, with Jeddah witnessing an increase in occupancy rates since the Jeddah Season Festival began. The Festival also presented the opportunity for numerous F&B players to enter the market and take part in the activities.

Jeddah is leading by example. Its Season Festival has been a key influence, with other cities also planning to host their very own version of the extravaganza. If things go according to plan, the objectives of the “Quality of Life” program will be fulfilled, generating 300,000 jobs by 2020 and delivering a wide range of entertainment and leisure facilities to cities throughout the Kingdom. As more opportunities continue to arise, an increasing number of key international players are set to take advantage of investment opportunities in the GCC’s biggest economy.

*The writer is senior analyst – Strategic Advisory at CBRE MENAT