KSA looks forward to ‘best entertainment year ever’

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Updated 23 February 2018

KSA looks forward to ‘best entertainment year ever’

RIYADH: The General Entertainment Authority (GEA) will host an unprecedented number of events throughout the Kingdom this year, with more than 5,000 live shows, festivals and concerts planned across 56 cities.
The 2018 entertainment calendar will feature the most diverse line-up of live entertainment ever seen in Saudi Arabia, ranging from musicals and family shows to stand-up comedy and live performances from some of the biggest names in global music.
The announcement was made at a special event in Riyadh attended by Ahmed Al-Khatib, chairman of the board, and Faisal Bafarat, GEA’s CEO.
Saudi Arabia will invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector in the coming decade, an official said on Thursday, as the Kingdom pursues a program of social and economic reforms.
Al-Khatib said the money will come from both the government and the private sector.
He said that 500 companies have registered to organize entertainment events in the coming year.
The GEA is accelerating plans to provide rich and diverse entertainment options and experiences for people in all parts of Saudi Arabia to enjoy. “The authority contributes directly to the objectives of the Quality of Life program, which aims to achieve a thriving economy and a vibrant society in which citizens and residents enjoy a better quality of life,” he said.
Al-Khatib told the audience: “Our aim today is to speak of the events that will take place in the coming year.” He commended the media and its help in spreading the word: “We are an orchestra, we have done nothing, you have done everything (the media). All I can say is that we have achieved a global goal of quality that competes with London and New York.”
He revealed that the entertainment sector needs SR267 billion ($71 billion) of investment to build entertainment infrastructure in all regions of the Kingdom, and investment in infrastructure between 2017 and 2030 is expected to contribute SR18 billion per year to Saudi Arabia’s GDP, with consumer spending estimated to reach SR36 billion by 2030.
“GEA is proud to be one of the drivers of transformation in the Kingdom, through its clear purpose to build a world-class entertainment industry that will put the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the global tourism and entertainment map,” he said.
GEA was first announced in May 2016, and has grown quickly since then.
“This year will witness many exciting events that will take place all over Saudi for the whole family to enjoy,” said Al-Khatib.
“We took this risk to work with media, with all trust. We work together and we help each other. The third-largest industry in Saudi is entertainment and we want to expand it.
“For the first time in the country, a Yanni concert took place in Dharan and 10 percent of the audiences were Bahrainis; the roles have been reversed and we witnessed our side of the bridge being trafficked and not the other way around, for they came to us. I promise you we will see more of this in the future — Emirates, Kuwait, everyone,” he said.
“In the year of 2030, I promise you this will continue and we will be in the top 10 country destinations for entertainment.”
Al-Khatib said many events and theme parks are planned. “We have the likes of Gideya, the largest theme park in the world, and Six Flags, which is under construction. We will continue to improve the infrastructure to build theses theme parks. We know what we want, we have the support from our leaders.
“Today we are organized and focused that Saudis stand on their own feet.”
Bafarat said: “This year will not only provide more opportunities for people to share rich experiences with family and friends, but will also significantly contribute to the continued development of the entertainment industry in the Kingdom. 2018 marks a change in pace thanks to the sheer scale of the program we are offering. Thousands of events will be organized and regulated, providing more opportunities than ever for us to continue to enhance the quality of entertainment events in the Kingdom, as well as adhere to the highest international standards.”
Speaking to Arab News after the event the GEA CEO said.” The events are very extensive, we will not be focusing on one aspect, but will cover all aspects of entertainment that include theme parks, museums, entertainment centers, live shows, sports events, theaters, cinemas, festival and popups.”
“We have, in total more than 5,000 events, both local and international, and on every weekend, we have one big event in one of the big cities in the Kingdom,” Bafarat noted.
He added that the local events too will have some international elements, so if you have a local street festival, you will find some international and regional act into it.
In a reply on how far international shows organized last year were helpful in grooming local talents and local entertainment sector, he said, it was indeed very helpful, earlier global actors were not taking us seriously saying Saudi market is not ready for us to come and stage the show, now we have people knocking the door saying, “we want to bring the show to Saudi.”
Bafarat said: “Our aim is to have a huge impact on our economy, provide jobs, and support medium and small companies.”
He presented the 2018 entertainment line-up highlights, which include 55 headline events alongside thousands of events hosted by private organizers, municipalities and governorates that will be supported by GEA.
“Last year was a benchmark for us, this year it will be 10 times better,” he said. “This is a team effort, we thank all the sectors that have participated.
“The diversity and scale of the 2018 entertainment program will play a significant role in the continued growth of the entertainment industry in the Kingdom with a total of 224,000 new jobs, including 114,000 direct and 110,000 indirect jobs expected to be created in the sector by 2030,” Barafat said.
“Families, young people and children will be able to enjoy live music performances, theater shows, musicals, circus performances, community festivals and much more across the Kingdom,” he said.
After their speeches, an illusionist entertained the audience with magic tricks.
Speaking to Arab News, Majid Al-Hokair, who heads the Committee for Tourism, Events and Entertainment at the Riyadh Chamber, said: “These are very positive changes taking place in the Kingdom with the GEA at the helm of affair.
“Thanks to the GEA for bringing these programs home. The authority is inspired to develop, establish and organize a competitive infrastructure for entertainment in the Kingdom.”
The GEA chairman and CEO also made awards to events organized last year. The winners in different categories include “Luxury KSA” as the best event with local content, “Comic Con” as the best international event with local flavor and “iLuminate” as the best event for live entertainment.
In 2017, the GEA hosted more than 2,200 events attended by 8.2 million people.

Saudi foreign minister to Arab News: No Israelis attended Pompeo meeting

Updated 23 November 2020

Saudi foreign minister to Arab News: No Israelis attended Pompeo meeting

  • Prince Faisal bin Farhan says no Israeli officials were at meeting between crown prince and Mike Pompeo
  • 'No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.'

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister told Arab News on Monday that there were no Israeli officials at a meeting between Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the US Secretary of State.

Prince Faisal bin Farhan has denied reports that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined talks in NEOM with Mike Pompeo on Sunday.

He said the meeting was only attended by Saudis, Pompeo himself and the US ambassador to the Kingdom, John Abizaid.

“The only non-Saudis at the meeting with HRH the crown prince were Secretary Pompeo and the US ambassador,” Prince Faisal told Arab News.

Earlier the foreign minister dismissed the reports from his Twitter account.

“I have seen press reports about a purported meeting between HRH the Crown Prince and Israeli officials during the recent visit by @SecPompeo,” Prince Faisal bin Farhan said. “No such meeting occurred. The only officials present were American and Saudi.”

Pompeo met with the crown prince in the northern city of NEOM on Sunday evening as part of his regional tour.

They “reviewed friendship relations, areas of bilateral cooperation between the two countries and ways to enhance them,” Saudi Press Agency reported. They also discussed the latest developments in the Middle East.

The meeting was attended by Prince Faisal and Abizaid.

Recent agreements with the UAE, Bahrain and Sudan to establish relations with Israel have led to speculation that other Arab states may follow.

Saudi Arabia has said there must be a peace agreement first between Israel and the Palestinians before the Kingdom establishes relations with Israel.

Shortly after the UAE agreement with Israel was announced, Prince Faisal said Saudi Arabia would continue to adhere to the Arab Peace Plan in its relations with Israel.

The plan, which was sponsored by the Kingdom in 2002, said ties with Israel would be normalized once a peace agreement was reached with the Palestinians that included an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.

The plan would see Israel withdraw from Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.

“When we sponsored the Arab Peace Plan in 2002, we fully envisioned that there would eventually be relations between all Arab states, including Saudi Arabia, and Israel if the condition is met,” Prince Faisal said in August.

“Saudi Arabia remains committed to peace as a strategic option based on the Arab Peace Plan and relevant international resolutions enabling the Palestinian people to establish their own state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”