In a bid to start diversifying its economy, the Saudi Arabian government has set up a Public Investment Fund (PIF) of $2.7 billion to energize the nation’s fledgling entertainment sector. The Arab nation is said to be very conscious of its dependence on oil—particularly as prices are depressed at the moment—and intends to “expand the scope and variety of entertainment offerings” in a bid to keep its citizens from traveling overseas in search of a good time.
“Although oil and gas are essential pillars of our economy, we have begun expanding our investments into additional sectors,” reads the Vision 2030 report, which outlines plans to develop a more robust service sector and domestic entertainment market. The plan also outlines goals to double household spending on entertainment to 6% and to increase tourism to the kingdom from 8 million to 30 million annually. As it stands, the holy site of Mecca is far and away the nation’s biggest tourism draw.
Live event industry magazine IQ Mag writes that: “The General Authority for Entertainment (GEA), created by royal decree in May 2016, is spearheading the entertainment drive, and has so far been responsible for bringing shows including Cirque du Soleil and the Lion King musical to the kingdom, as well as the first Saudi Comic Con.”
Earlier this year, IQ also published an in-depth report into the health of the live music scene in the Middle-East, and in that found that the live sector accounts for 90% of all music industry revenue, compared with just 65% worldwide. While the dominant markets are Dubai and Tel-Aviv, news that the oil-rich kingdom of Saudi Arabia intends to start investing in culture marks a turning point in the region and could be the beginning of a new live music and entertainment hub in the Middle-East.