Time: April 29, 2018
Saudi Arabia: Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman attended the ground-breaking ceremony on Saturday of a vast entertainment resort called Qiddiya.
Qiddiya, about an hour’s drive from Riyadh, is being built on a 334 sq km site, making it two and a half times the size of Disney World.
It will include a Six Flags theme park, water parks, motor sports, cultural events, and vacation homes.
A spokesman said Qiddiya expects to attract 1.5 million visitors annually when the first phase opens in 2022.
King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman attended the lavish launch ceremony, which featured a live orchestra, fireworks and a vocal performance praising both leaders.
“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 told government officials, foreign dignitaries and businessmen gathered in a temporary open-air auditorium.
“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.”
Reininger told Reuters that Qiddiya was seeking a broad range of financing from local and international sources, with bonds, direct investment and other tools to supplement the majority contribution from the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF).
With two-thirds of the population under 35 and few local entertainment offerings, many Saudis flock to nearby Bahrain or Dubai seeking fun at the weekends.
The state wants to secure up to a quarter of the $20 billion spent on entertainment overseas each year.
“It’s a giant market, there’s not a lot of competition, there’s a clear opportunity. That’s the kind of thing you want to invest in,” he said.
Asked whether social restrictions in place in other parts of Saudi Arabia, like gender segregation and a strict dress code for women, would apply, Reininger said Qiddiya would stay “on the leading edge” of changes in the kingdom, which has eased many of those rules in recent years.
This article was first published Gulf News
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