The New Saudi Arabian Entertainment Scene: You'll Need More Than 1,001 Nights To Enjoy

Federico Winer

The writer Jorge Asis revisited “Lawrence of Arabia” and explained that his caravan needed the help of four women to cross the desert of the peninsula. Only their beautiful eyes enlightened the path across the large sand mountains from dusk ’til dawn. Nowadays, software lights the way in a similar vein. Only the best technological solutions can survive this new era of business: those that meet society’s increasingly high demands.

In the last 12 months, I visited Saudi Arabia five times and I was very lucky to meet some of our customers from the region’s entertainment industry. With every conversation, I began to sense some commonalities in their experiences and strategies. Three takeaways on the development of these segments:

1. Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 initiative is going strong

New opportunities for existing and future entertainment ventures are starting to emerge across the region because Saudis support the idea that culture is indispensable to their quality of life and the current offerings do not reflect the rising aspirations of their citizens. This is opening new windows for innovation and customer experiences, as most of these segments are starting from scratch.

The new approach is granting an active role to the spectator, turning them into the new protagonists. This is leading to changes in museum spaces and greater participation by architects who are forming their containers.

2. Saudis show their love for screens

During the cinema ban period, the only public screen in Saudi Arabia was a single IMAX cinema located at the Sultan Bin Abdulaziz Science and Technology Center. But lifting the ban is expected to increase the number of movie screens by 38.4%, to 1,800, in the MENA region in the next three to five years, according to a research by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PWC).

We can also expect that these venues will host more than movies. For example, the Princess Reema bint Bandar of the General Sport Authority says the Saudi gaming sector is “ripe for investment.” Given Saudi Arabia’s large youth population, it is believed that pumping more money into the eSports sector could give a boost to both young people and the national economy.

3. Growth is here to stay

Across the entire entertainment industry, it’s hard to ignore that Saudi Arabia is in the midst of tremendous growth:

  • Household spending on cultural and entertainment activities inside the Kingdom has risen from 2.9% to 6%.
  • The ratio of individuals exercising at least once a week is soaring from 13% of the population to 40%.
  • The capacity to welcome Umrah visitors has sharply increased from 8 million to 30 million every year.
  • The number of Saudi heritage sites registered with UNESCO has doubled.

The opening of the Saudi market opens large opportunities in the era of the intelligent enterprise. In early 2018, SAP CEO Bill McDermott envisioned this change because of the digital revolution that we all live in. Saudi millennials are part of the best-connected generation in history and “the workplace of the future will bring careers we can’t even imagine yet. Supporting the digital ambitions of the Kingdom equips today’s youth with the digital skills to unleash their potential and achieve their dreams,” he said.

If you’re planning to travel to Saudia Arabia (or elsewhere), explore the question How Will Travel Look In A Digital World?

With a combination of intelligent technologies, services, and industry expertise, it is exciting to see the processes and resources igniting innovation in any facet of the KSA Entertainment businesses. Special thanks to inspiring characters, including Martin Wezowski, Marc NollaAliyah Albanyan, Noura Alaquil, Badih Hakim, Mohanned Althukair, Zead AlfayizFadwa AlharganAlessandro SposatoNouf Aljuhani, and the leadership of the KSA Managing Director Khaled Alsaleh.

This article orignally appeared on LinkedIn Pulse.

Federico Winer

About Federico Winer

'It's technology married with liberal arts, married with the humanities, that yields the results that make our hearts sing'. As the Head of Entertainment Industries for SAP and PhD candidate at Loughborough University, I engineer solutions to fuel innovation across cultures and businesses. Speaker and visiting lecturer.