Saudi Arabia plans to invest $64 billion in its entertainment sector over the coming decade, an official said today. The astronomical sum earmarked will go towards building new venues and flying in Western acts.
The announcement was made at a glitzy press conference in Riyadh. The General Entertainment Authority chief Ahmad Bin Aqeel Al-Khatib was reported by AFP news telling reporters that the Kingdom is embarking on an ambitious plan and is willing to spend astronomical sums to bring the country's entertainment sector into the 21st Century.
"We are already building the infrastructure," Khatib said, adding that ground had been broken for an opera house.
"God willing, you will see a real change by 2020," Khatib said, adding that more than 5,000 events were planned for the coming year.
In recent months, Saudi Arabia has organised concerts, a Comic-Con popular culture festival and a mixed-gender national day celebration that saw people dancing in the streets to thumping electronic music for the first time.
The opening up of new entertainment options in the conservative Kingdom is part of a programme of reforms dubbed "Vision 2030" championed by the de facto ruler Mohamed Bin Salman. The young crown prince is reported to want more Saudi's to take fewer holidays abroad and spend their vacations within the Kingdom to further boost the country's ailing economy.
Khatib's announcement reflects the pace of change in the conservative society, which would have been unthinkable only a few years ago. Bin Salman has embarked on an ambitious plan to completely overhaul the Kingdoms' economy and more controversially the traditional social base of the country.