Jeddah, Oct 3: Since its establishment a few months ago, the General Authority for Entertainment (GAE) has been working relentlessly to introduce the Saudi public to a new form of entertainment that takes the Saudi cultural life into new dimensions.
With a view to changing local and international perceptions, a royal decree was issued, ordering the creation of GAE, a decision that comes in tune with the announcement of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 for the future.
The decision is of great importance as it will help strengthen both the Saudi economy and its global competitiveness.
GAE has organized a live performance, conducted by the internationally recognized iLuminate, that is taking place in Princess Nourah University’s conference hall in Riyadh. The event started on Sept. 28 and will continue till Oct. 8.
Speaking to Arab News, Ziad Al-Suhaibani, a member of the GAE’s organizing team and an official at the advisory unit of the Ministry of Economy and Planning, said that the show has been very successful so far and was attended by thousands of citizens.
“Our goal is to change the stereotypical image of the cultural entertainment that has been projected to the local audience. What is unique in these activities is that they are not catering to only one type of audience. We open the door to families, single young Saudi men and women to attend and enjoy,” Al-Suhaibani said.
“Change is happening in Saudi Arabia. A new face of Saudi Arabia is emerging — one that is modern, young and open-minded,” he said.
“Our goal is to link this change with 2030 Vision; through entertainment to help achieve the objectives of the vision,” he added.
Al-Suhaibani pointed out that the entertainment industry is a green field and customer experience of this event is world class, stressing that the activities selected are in total harmony with the Kingdom’s Vision 2030.
The audience expressed satisfaction with the show through different social media platforms.
“The iLuminate live show I attended today was spectacular and well organized. I am so glad to see such kind of activities in the Kingdom,” said one twitterati.
“Besides Arabs and Saudis, the attendees were very diverse. We’ve got visitors from Korea, Germany, Tajikistan, US, UK, Italy, France and from many other countries,” Al-Suhaibani said.
“The concept of live show is new to the Kingdom. I guess this may be the first international live show brought to the Kingdom,” he said.
On April 25, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pointed out at the launch of Saudi Vision 2030 that the government is working to activate the role of various government funds in the establishment and development of recreational centers, as well as to encourage investors, both from the Kingdom and abroad, to invest in Saudi Arabia, create partnerships with international entertainment companies and have land allocated for the establishment of cultural and recreational projects such as libraries, museums, art galleries and others.
The worldwide visual “iLuminate” specializes in the field of entertainment technology that combines state-of-the-art technology with entertainers wearing lit costume and performing in the dark to create the ultimate performing art experience.
The group came from New York to perform for the first time in the Kingdom.
When it concludes its activities in Riyadh, the show will move on to Jeddah, where it will be held at King Abdullah Sports City from Oct. 12-22.
This type of visual presentation is directed at children, families and youths; it combines the latest technology and the best talents to create an exceptional experience in the field of performing arts, he added.
Earlier this years, GAE unveiled its programs and activities till the end of 2016.
They include 166 artistic performances and plays expected to be attended by half a million visitors and bring revenues of over SR43 million.
The scheduled events for October include iLuminate, which uses laser technology, as well as performances such as “Luxury Entertainment Hub.”
In November, the audience will enjoy WWE wrestling matches, the Monster Jam Food Festival, and performances by the best participants in “Arabs Got Talent” who will perform live in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam for three days.
There will also be graffiti drawing in the Graffiti District, an even that is expected to be fun and attract a large audience.
In December, the schedule include events like “Comic Con,” animation and cartoon characters, “Actionha”, Spartan Reese, a show by prominent actor Tareq Al-Ali “Qalb Lal Bei’” (Heart for sale), Jeddah comedy club tour “Love Factory”, which is will be performed by Artologi exhibition in the three cities.
Plans for 2017 include performances by Cirque Du Soleil, Universe Science, the Light Festival, the Lion King; they will draw an estimated 2 million visitors in 15 cities.
Experts believe that GAE will be instrumental in reducing the number of outbound tourists by 50 percent.
In this context, Abdulrahman Al-Sani, vice president of the National Committee for Tourism, said some 4.5 million Saudi tourists spent nearly $35 billion (SR131.25 billion) in 2015 in foreign countries.
This figure is poised to increase to more than $100 billion (SR375 billion) in 15 years, at an annual rate of 15 percent, he said.
The volume of money spent on outbound tourism reached SR96.2 billion in 2015, compared to SR69.3 billion in 2014, a 39 percent increase, according to estimates of the Tourism Information and Research Center at the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTNH).
GAE was created with several objectives in mind: dropping the unemployment rate from 11.6 percent to 7 percent, closer to the international rate; enhancing domestic tourism, in harmony with the Saudi Vision 2030, and supporting local festivals and activities, as tourism for entertainment purposes; activating the role of government funds to establish and develop entertainment centers; encouraging local and international investors to invest in Saudi Arabia and create partnerships; allocating lands for libraries and museums; supporting talented writers, directors and authors.