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Here’s the Saudi entertainment to expect in 2017

Al Arabiya exclusively interviews the CEO of the Saudi Entertainment commission on 2017 entertainment for Saudi Arabia

Published: Updated:

Cinema, concerts and the 2017 calendar of the Entertainment Commission, among other matters, were the subjects that were discussed in an interview with the CEO of the Saudi Entertainment commission, Eng. Amr al-Madani, who confirmed that 2017 will be the year of entertainment for the Saudis.

He pointed out that the goal of the Entertainment Commission is to give the Saudi citizens further reasons to stay in the kingdom, and enjoy the rich entertainment environment.

Following are the excerpts from the interview:

First of all, what should Saudis expect from the Entertainment Commission in 2017?

The entertainment calendar will be launched by January-end. We, at the Entertainment Commission, would like to call this year the ‘Year of the entertainment’. Our goal is to offer a variety of events, giving the citizen opportunities to enjoy and have good memories with the family. We aim to pave the way for a positive and attractive environment. We are also working on targeting investors. We would like to offer clear and transparent laws, in addition to excellent services. If the relations with the investors are established on good terms, we will definitely pave the way for a new economic sector, i.e. ‘entertainment.’

What is the Entertainment Commission’s plan this year to reduce the number of Saudis who travel abroad for entertainment?

There are 52 weeks per year and travelling is usually associated with discovery, educational and recreational benefits. However, if we take into consideration the great opportunities that we have, with the nature, infrastructure and characteristics of the Saudi Kingdom, we find that they are similar to those overseas. Nevertheless, one can always travel whenever one wishes.

Amr al-Madani
Amr al-Madani

Have you set a target share of these 80 billion Saudi riyals that are spent outside the Saudi Kingdom?

The percentage that we have is defined within a key performance indicator that is included in the 2030 Vision. We are now working on setting a chart for this percentage. The annual economic indicators will extend until 2020, which in turn will contribute to reaching the final target percentage in 2030. We seek to raise the spend by Saudi families on the entertainment sector in the Kingdom from 2.9 percent to 6 percent, which is an international percentage.

Is there a specific financial target for the Entertainment Commission to be achieved by the end of 2017?

We are working on preparing a strategic plan for the entertainment sector, but since the Entertainment Commission works already for society, we worked with special partners to provide distinctive entertainment opportunities from day one, and we are still in the first stages. We promise the citizens to work with transparency and we will be announcing our goals, numbers and strategies over the next four months.

Amr al-Madani
Amr al-Madani

Did you feel, at the end of 2016, the huge load of responsibility in spreading entertainment activities among Saudis?

That is true. One of the key indicators that we are developing is the happiness indicator that will be part of our culture and traditions. We will work on the musical and cultural choices as well as poetry events; each sector will have plenty of choices.

What is the category that you will be targeting the most in the 2017 calendar?

The family is our main target, but that does not mean that we will not focus on the youth who represent 60 percent of Saudi society. All categories will be covered with the 2017 calendar. There will be exceptional events that will have a targeted audience. We will organize events that will target young people and families too. This is what we worked on in 2016.

Where will ‘happiness’ figure in the 2017 calendar?

The happiness scale is measured in different ways in many countries of the world. At the Entertainment Commission, we will have a clear indicator until 2020. We will announce it after choosing the concept of happiness. Honestly, our goal is that every Saudi family will have at least three options in their hometown, which will be available during the weekends. These activities will be within the scope of their income and needs.

Amr al-Madani
Amr al-Madani

Will there be free activities for Saudi citizens during the 2017 calendar?

Yes, definitely! For instance, there will be free festivals in Saudi Arabia, like the Jeddah Festival, to which we will be adding an entertaining dimension that includes many free activities for young people.

There are some who have asked about the reasons for naming just one woman in the entertainment commission?

Dr. Lama Suleiman is a professional lady and the number of women on the panel does not mean anything. We are proud that we are one of the government commissions that are mixed. We thank the governors for their trust and support for the entertainment sector with a global system and a key role for Mrs. Lama Suleiman. Women represent half of the society. They participate, invest and take active part in the community. There will be events targeting only women within Saudi society, as well as others mainly targeting the youth.

How do you see investment opportunities in the entertainment sector in Saudi Arabia?

Huge projects like Six Flags need a lot of time. However, there is rapid growth in the Kingdom. Investors from all around the world are coming to Saudi Arabia. We need to have clear laws and a fertile investment environment. We have a young generation that seeks to invest their time in a good way. For example, the reason why Six Flags planned to come to the Kingdom, was due to the economic model that is perfect. We are happy to have investors rushing to the Kingdom and we need to have a developed system whether on the level of licenses or mechanisms that preserve the right of the beneficiary in a greater way. This is the main role of the Entertainment Commission.

Saudi singer Mohammad Abdo gives a rare concert in the Red Sea port of Jeddah late on August 2, 2009. Saudi Arabia's most famous entertainer, who plays the oud, sings, and recites classical poetry in sold-out concerts around the Arab world, is taking part this year in Jeddah's summer festival at home. (AFP)
Saudi singer Mohammad Abdo gives a rare concert in the Red Sea port of Jeddah late on August 2, 2009. Saudi Arabia's most famous entertainer, who plays the oud, sings, and recites classical poetry in sold-out concerts around the Arab world, is taking part this year in Jeddah's summer festival at home. (AFP)

Will we see special infrastructure dedicated for entertainment in 2017?

We are working on preparing the facilities and attracting partners. We are still revising the investment in infrastructure, as well as the establishment of special investment funds for entertainment. It is all under analysis. The success of the Commission is not only linked to the success of the events, but also to that of the sector that is still growing.

Will there be cinema activities in 2017?

The cinema subject is being inspected by several sides and we did not decide anything about it yet. The cinema entertainment facility must be well organized in order to succeed and we have not started with it yet. I can only tell you that there are activities that are being studied, but there are no cinematic activities within the activities of the 2017 calendar.

Are there any concerts for Saudis in 2017?

Yes, Mohammad Abdo’s concert will take place in Jeddah very soon. Another one will be held in Riyadh and it is still being discussed. Concerts by other Saudi and Gulf artists will be included in the calendar but I cannot specify their number or location.

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