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Seven plans entertainment sites in remote parts of Saudi Arabia

Seven will open an entertainment complex on the seafront promenade on Al Nawras Island in Yanbu Seven
Seven will open an entertainment complex on the seafront promenade on Al Nawras Island in Yanbu
  • 21 remote destinations
  • Survey to ensure local relevance
  • Abha could be first in 2025

Saudi giga-project developer Seven says it will open the first of 21 destinations next year as part of its mandate to build entertainment complexes in remote corners of the country. It plans to roll them out over the next six years. 

Damien Latham, chief attraction officer at the Public Investment Fund subsidiary, said Seven had not yet decided on names for each site, but they would each be crafted to suit the local environment and interests, based on a survey of 20,000 Saudis around the country. 

“Our mandate is a pretty diverse one – to bring entertainment to far-flung areas of Saudi Arabia,” he said on the sidelines of an IAAPA Middle East Trade Summit in Abu Dhabi. “It’s 14 different cities. There’s cultural nuances to each one of those cities that we need to take on board and reflect in our design thinking.

“We’ve not fully defined our branding set yet, we’re right at the very end of it, so we’ll certainly be there making an announcement soon. Ultimately Seven is the banner that we sit under, but the names for each of those complexes will be revealed very soon.” 

The 14 cities include distant locations near the kingdom’s borders, such as Jizan near Yemen; Dammam and Khobar on the Gulf coast; Yanbu on the Red Sea and Tabuk in the far north near Neom, the leading Saudi giga-project.

“You’ve literally got to have an attraction for everyone,” Latham said. “It might be something as simple as bowling, or a waterpark, or an indoor ski slope, or a karting track, or an adventure centre.”

Abha on the horizon

Latham said Seven’s first destination to open could be in Abha in 2025, but no delays were foreseen as the PIF was sticking to its promised funding of SAR50 billion ($13.3 billion). 

“Some are more complicated than others. We’ll have a batch in 2025, 2026, 2027, 2028,” Latham said, adding some could open as late as 2029 in cases where land access is not yet finalised. 

“Seven planned early, started in earnest, started to build, our shareholder believes we’re doing the right thing, we believe we’re doing the right thing, so we continue.” 

The kingdom is trying to meet giga-project deadlines of 2030 when it hosts the World Expo in Riyadh and the football World Cup in 2034.

Riyadh will host its own dedicated entertainment and sports giga-project called Qiddiya City, valued at $9.8 billion. 

Finance minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan said last month some projects could be slowed down to avoid inflation and supply bottlenecks. 

With oil prices slipping, the government says it faces three years of budget deficits. It has turned to international debt markets to fund the expansion while local banks are under pressure to meet the demand for credit. 

“Being a part of a much wider country vision and strategy is daunting and rewarding at the same time,” Latham said. “Certainly the team at Seven know the gravitas of such a mandate.”

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