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MARKET REPORT: MIDDLE EAST


impressive as the Kingdom races to catch up with its neighbours. Vox Cinemas alone has reported that it’s on track to have 110 screens open by the end of 2019 with the goal of 600 screens by 2023. As seen in the UAE, Saudi Arabia’s


strategy also includes the creation of large, mixed use, theme park anchored resorts. The first of these is Al Qiddiya, a 334 sq km Six Flags anchored entertainment city 40 kms south west of Riydah. Opening of the first phase of the development is slated for 2022 but a total of three Six Flags parks at US$ 300 million – 500 million each is proposed for the Kingdom. The headline projects, though, are Neom


City and the Red Sea Project. Neom City is a proposed 26,500 sq kms, US$ 500 billion new city of the future close to the border with Jordan with a possible bridge to Egypt. Details of the project are still scarce but technology and entertainment will clearly be big components. The Red Sea Project is a 500 hectares


luxury tourism project, aimed principally at the domestic and Umrah tourist markets, that includes 200 km of coastline and 50 untouched islands. Phase 1 is due to open by 2022 with the project completed by 2028. It’s not just about mega-projects, though, Saudi Arabia is also looking to develop a range of nature reserves, mountain resorts with adventure centres, and develop improved access and infrastructure around its UNESCO listed historical sites, such as the Nabatean structures at Al Ula (think Petra but in Saudi Arabia). Driven by a necessity to diversify the


economy, the opportunities and demand for talent for the development of leisure and entertainment projects in Saudi Arabia are huge.


As mentioned in previous reports, Saudi


Arabia, like many other countries in the Middle East is also putting a significant


Angry Birds World, Qatar – Birthday Room


effort in to developing a more diverse, modern transport infrastructure with high- speed rail links throughout the region. The first phase of the US$ 22.5 billion 6 line Riyadh Metro, which is now substantially complete, is due to have its light opening in 2019 and be fully operational by 2021. Linked to the metro, plans were also announced last week for a US$ 23 billion investment to improve the lifestyle and leisure facilities available to citizens of the city with more green spaces, recreational areas and a project to install 1,000 works of art across the city. Not everything is Government-led, of


course. A number of new FECs, activity centres and trampoline parks have opened in 2018, including the first women’s only Bounce trampoline centre in Riyadh with more in the pipeline. Design work on Majid Al Futtaim’s 400m long indoor ski slope planned for the 300,000 sqm Mall of Saudi is also understood to be progressing well. As previously reported, however, some


of the earlier flagship leisure projects, such as the National Aquarium of Saudi


Arabia and Science Museum proposed for Riyadh’s King Abdullah Financial


PARK WORLD Handbook & Buyers Guide 2019


District in 2012 are now assumed to have been cancelled.


QATAR 2019 could be a pivotal year for the attractions industry in Qatar with a large number of the new attraction openings that were previously anticipated for 2017 and 2018 now expected to occur in 2019. In fact, since the opening of the Mall of Qatar in December 2016, home to Kidzmondo and Xtremeland, the only notable attraction openings in the past two years has been the opening of the indoor part of Angry Birds World and the partial opening of Virtuocity, an e-sports arena, in June and November 2018 respectively, both at Doha Festival City. The outdoor part of Angry Birds


World, Snow Dunes, an indoor snow play centre, the balance of Virtuocity and Juniverse, a space themed, children’s role play attraction, all located at Doha Festival City, which were slated to open in 2017, are now eagerly anticipated to open in 2019, impacted no doubt by the tension between the Qatar and the other member


states of the GCC and Egypt, which still seems to be some way from resolution.


27


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