Saudi Arabia vice minister for culture, Hamed bin Mohammed Fayez, has highlighted a list of over 100 cultural initiatives, engagements and events taking place in the kingdom before the end of the year.
He pointed to the vibrant and varied schedule which includes many events led by the 25 cultural institutions the ministry of culture has launched since its inception three years ago.
During the panel appearance at the Future Investment Initiative (FII) in Riyadh, Fayez said that Saudi culture is being uncovered and energised at an unprecedented scale and pace.
He argued the ambitions of the kingdom are presenting many opportunities for both the local and international private sector, and that Saudi Arabia is already actively contributing to the global creative industry.
“This is an exciting time for culture in Saudi Arabia.
“In the coming weeks alone, we will host our first major international film festival, our first art biennale and international festivals like Fashion Futures and MDLBeast,” said Fayez.
“These events flow from the steady progress to nurture creativity and create a vibrant cultural economy in the kingdom.”
In other signs of newfound ambition, the ministry has developed a strategy that will open new cultural investment opportunities through public-private partnerships or joint ventures, bolster the infrastructure around creative industries, and ease regulation to allow businesses to thrive.
Coupled with growing demand for culture across the kingdom, the changing Saudi cultural landscape has already caught the eye of international investors.
Fayez was quick to point out that the ministry’s role was not limited to the promotion of the creative industries inside the kingdom but also to increasing and improving the quality of culture exchange with its global peers.
“I am deeply proud of the kingdom successfully campaigning for culture and the creative industries to be formally part of the conversation at the G20,” said Fayez during his panel discussion.
“It started during Saudi’s presidency last year and has continued, which means we have ensured culture has a permanent place in G20 considerations and is part of the global economic agenda.”
Elsewhere at the FII, the Saudi Tourism Development Fund (TDF) and Ennismore signed a memorandum of understanding to explore the establishment of a US$400 million fund that would bring the company’s lifestyle brands to at least 12 destinations in the country.
Under the deal, TDF would identify locations and provide financing options for projects throughout the kingdom, while Ennismore would lead on programming, design and operations of the destinations, under its lifestyle brands.
Created in 2021, Ennismore is a joint venture between founder Sharan Pasricha and Accor, creating the largest and fastest-growing lifestyle company in the world.
The development of lifestyle destinations – an undersupplied segment of the Saudi tourism industry – would align with the National Tourism Strategy’s ten key destinations, including Riyadh, Jeddah, Eastern Province, Aseer, Al Ula, Taif, Madinah, Al-Baha, Hail and Al-Jouf, delivering around 2,000 keys.
TDF would continue to provide new opportunities for private sector investors in the Saudi tourism space, while aligning with wider sustainable tourism efforts throughout the kingdom, prioritising the protection of nature and supporting local communities.
Both TDF and Ennismore are committed to employing, training, and developing Saudi talent, creating up to 3,000 jobs.
Increasing the presence of lifestyle hospitality brands is at the heart of the strategy for welcoming brands that take an active role in driving community and build deep connections with guests through shared values, unique design, and authentic restaurant destinations, both for international visitors and locals.
During a ceremony attended by Ahmed Al Khateeb, minister of tourism for Saudi Arabia and chairman of TDF, Sébastien Bazin, chief executive of Accor, Qusai Al-Fakhri, chief executive of TDF, signed the deal in the presence of Sharan Pasricha and Gaurav Bhushan, co-chief executives of Ennismore.
Al-Fakhri said: “This memorandum marks an important milestone for TDF as we continue to enable private sector investors to benefit from the massive opportunities offered by Saudi’s growing tourism sector.
“The fund would channel private sector investments to various areas of the Kingdom, enriching the visitor experience and enhancing the value of strategic projects through globally renowned hospitality brands.
“These new lifestyle destinations would create unique experiences for visitors and residents to enjoy, providing them with exciting entertainment and food and beverage offerings, as well as co-working spaces.
“They would also focus on ensuring the social, environmental, and economic sustainability of the areas they are located in.”
TDF was established in June 2020 with a capital of US$4 billion to drive tourism growth in Saudi Arabia.
The Fund works to unify the efforts of the tourism sector and its partners including lenders, operators, and service providers, to enhance the investment experience and facilitate private sector access to opportunities in various regions of the Kingdom that are distinguished by their natural, geographical and cultural offering.