© BM Saudi Arabia launches multi-billion dollar entertainment complex By Stephen Kalin and Marwa Rashad QIDDIYA, Saudi Arabia (BM) – Saudi King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman attended the inauguration ceremony on Saturday of a vast entertainment complex which is at the heart of an ambitious strategy of opening up the economy and easing social restrictions. Qiddiya, about an hour’s drive from Riyadh, is being built on a 334 km2 (8,400 acre) site, 2-1 / 2 times the size of Disney World. It will include a Six Flags theme park, water parks, motorsports, cultural events and vacation homes. A spokesperson said that Qiddiya expects to attract 1.5 million visitors per year when the first phase opens in 2022. Local media reported that the cost of the infrastructure alone would reach as high as ‘to 30 billion riyals ($ 8 billion) and that the project would ultimately be worth tens of billions. of riyals. Just over a week after Saudi Arabia opened its first cinema after a nearly four-decade ban, reformist Prince Mohammed and his father attended the lavish launch ceremony, which included a live orchestra, fireworks and a praising vocal performance. the two leaders. “Today we invite investors, creators and operators around the world to explore what a unique project like Qiddiya has to offer,” CEO Michael Reininger told government officials, dignitaries foreigners and businessmen gathered in a temporary opening. – aerial 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 BM that Qiddiya is seeking a wide range of funding from local and international sources, with bonds, direct investments and other tools to complement the majority contribution of the main Saudi sovereign fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF ). The PIF has two other major initiatives: NEOM – a $ 500 billion commercial and industrial area stretching into Egypt and Jordan – and a Red Sea project, which includes a nature reserve, coral reef diving and heritage sites on approximately 50 islands. Reininger did not specify the expected investment value for Qiddiya, except to describe it as “incredibly large”. About 50 people are directly employed by Qiddiya, and hundreds more are engaged as local suppliers and global advisers. These figures are expected to reach 55,000 by 2022. The project aims to be the center of entertainment, culture and sport activities in a country which has avoided such activities on religious grounds but which is now suing to generate economic spinoffs and open the Saudis’ cloister. lifestyles. GIANT MARKET With two-thirds of the population under 35 and little local entertainment, many Saudis flock to nearby Bahrain or Dubai for weekend fun. The state wants to secure up to a quarter of the $ 20 billion spent each year on entertainment abroad. “Capturing as much of (this expense) as possible is the goal and at the same time creating a bigger pie so that I can get the disproportionate share of that bigger pie that we’re creating at the same time,” Reininger said. “We’re not just going to go around the world, find things and copy them. We will innovate and we will stay one step ahead. Reininger, an American who joined Qiddiya last month, previously worked on a high-speed rail system in Florida, oversaw the development of large-scale resort complexes for the Walt Disney Company (NYSE :), and was a senior manager of the engineering company AECOM. Asked how to avoid the pitfalls of other megaprojects in the region, which have suffered long delays and cost overruns and sometimes fall well short of expected returns, Reininger said Qiddiya stood out by meeting a need economic clear. “It’s a giant market, there isn’t a lot of competition, there is a clear opportunity. This is the kind of thing you want to invest in, ”he said. When asked if social restrictions in place in other parts of Saudi Arabia, such as gender segregation and a strict dress code for women, would apply, Reininger said Qiddiya would stay “on the cutting edge. Changes in the realm, which mitigated many of them. rules in recent years.