- Özgür Töre
Riyadh Season, the biggest cultural and entertainment program in Saudi Arabia's history, officially launched with an aim to offer unprecedented opportunities for locals, residents, and visitors to enjoy world-class entertainment and activities across 12 themed zones spread around the city.
The biggest of 11 such events, planned as part of the Saudi Seasons initiative, the 66-day Riyadh Season is already underway and will run until 15 December 2019, offering over 100 exciting activities and allowing residents and tourists the opportunity to explore, experience and embrace Saudi Arabia in a different light.
Under the supervision and leadership of His Excellency Turki bin Abdulmohsen Al-Sheikh, Chairman of General Entertainment Authority (GEA) and President of Riyadh Season, Riyadh Season is set to welcome more than 5 million visitors to the Saudi capital, boosting tourism and further enhancing the Kingdom's status as an attractive destination for travelers from around the world. With more than 40,000 hotel rooms across the city already booked, the abundant interest and influx of visitors have been supported by the recent launch of tourism visas for citizens from 51 countries, making the Kingdom more accessible than ever before.
"Riyadh Season is not just an event, it is a blockbuster initiative to truly introduce Riyadh and Saudi Arabia to the world and put the spotlight on its rich heritage, culture and diversity. It is a movement that will have an unfathomable impact in terms of defining the history of the country and shaping its future. The hospitality, traditions, talent and opportunities in the Kingdom are second to none, and we are excited to showcase this to the world. The Season is not just an assortment of events and activities, rather the intention and efforts go far beyond – it is all about creating memorable experiences that will be fondly reminisced. We are looking forward to welcoming everyone with open arms and placing Saudi Arabia firmly on the map as a leading entertainment destination," said Eng. Faisal Bafarat, CEO of GEA and Head of Riyadh Season.
"Hosting concerts from leading international artists such as BTS underlines the scope of our ambitions, while the inclusion of several Saudi superstars and homegrown talent showcases the best of local culture on the global stage. Both visitors and residents alike can now discover Riyadh, and Saudi Arabia, in unique and innovative ways," added Bafarat.
Saudi Arabia is home to over 33 million people, including nine million in the capital and its neighboring provinces alone. As the Kingdom's entertainment sector continues to flourish, demand is steadily growing for high-quality events that meet the evolving preferences of its citizens, particularly the youth. This surge of interest is reflected in the unprecedented speed at which tickets for performances from local, regional and international artists have been purchased by music fans.
More than 60% of tickets for the BTS concert at the 67,000 capacity King Fahd Stadium were snapped up within just a few hours, with fans traveling from all corners of the globe to witness the K-pop stars in action. Meanwhile, opening weekend performances from Egyptian singer Tamer Hosny and Lebanese star Nancy Ajram sold out in less than six hours. Events such as poetry evenings are also drawing large audiences, highlighting a thoughtful approach to programming that ensures Riyadh Season's myriad offerings have universal appeal, taking into account the diverse entertainment preferences of the different age and socioeconomic groups in the area.
Saudi Arabia's biggest-ever event has already garnered sponsorships totaling over SAR 400 million, more than any sports or entertainment event in the Kingdom's history. This figure is expected to exceed SAR 1 billion over the course of the 66-day mega-event, underlining Riyadh Season's huge economic impact. Work is also underway to extend certain elements of Riyadh Season's activities and programs until Q1 2020, further consolidating the related infrastructure development that is taking place across the city.
The expanded and improved infrastructure includes upgraded roads and the construction of a state-of-the-art metro link to further enhance connectivity for visitors. These are complemented by cutting-edge facilities such as the recently opened Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center, which is three times the size of Riyadh's previous largest events space and provides a world-class venue for prestigious exhibitions and entertainment events of all kinds.