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Beyond the barrels: How Saudi’s SEVEN is transforming leisure and entertainment in the kingdom

Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN)’s grand ambitions for leisure and entertainment domination in the kingdom

Beyond the barrels: How Saudi's SEVEN is transforming leisure and entertainment in the kingdom

Saudi Arabia’s reliance on oil is widely recognised. Oil forms a significant part of the kingdom’s identity, yet, ever since the formal introduction of its Vision 2030 goals, this dependency on oil is slowly shifting to other sectors.

Diversifying its economy is Saudi Arabia’s main goal, and it is currently doing so by strategising improvements in its tourism, infrastructure, and recreational sectors. However, one thing is for sure; the kingdom’s leisure and entertainment landscape has greatly evolved over the years, and not only from a regulatory point of view.

According to a new industry report by Mordor Intelligence, the market is forecasted to be worth around $3.9 billion by 2030, with a growth rate of 48% per year. The government has played a leading role in this change, with the Public Investment Fund (PIF) establishing one of the biggest entertainment companies in 2017 called the Saudi Entertainment Ventures (SEVEN).

Armed with over $13 billion, SEVEN is aiming to redefine the future of Saudi Arabia’s entertainment landscape by investing in 21 integrated entertainment destinations across 14 cities. Its most recent project is ‘SEVEN Abha’, its $347.1 million (SAR1.3 billion) Aseer destination, strategically located between the cities of Abha and Khamis Mushait.

“The Aseer region is witnessing an unprecedented renaissance across different sectors and verticals through the endless support from our leadership,” comments Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdul Azizi Al Saud, Chairman of the Aseer Development Authority. “SEVEN’s entertainment destination in Abha is one of the key projects in Aseer which will support our ambition to become a global destination all year round.”

SEVEN has already initiated construction on three entertainment destinations situated in the Al Hamra district of Riyadh, Tabuk, and Almadinah. Additional locations are currently in the planning stages as the company anticipates welcoming its first guests by early 2025. The entirety of the planned destinations is scheduled to be open by 2030.

That being said, the standout feature of SEVEN’s destinations lies in their distinct and exceptional designs, often heavily inspired by the region they belong to. For instance, the SEVEN Abha is uniquely inspired by the ancient stone buildings of the area. Designed by global architecture firm Gensler, the project’s blueprint aligns with the principles of The Urban Code of the Aseer Religion which aims to promote excellence in urban planning, design, landscape, and architecture while ultimately respecting the identity of the region.

“Abha represents another ambitious project in the framework of our efforts to support the entertainment sector across the kingdom following the objectives and goals of Vision 2030,” says Abdullah AlDawood, the Chairman of SEVEN.

“We have been keen, in cooperation with the Aseer Development Authority and under the direct supervision of Prince Turki bin Talal bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, to ensure that the architectural design of the destination is inspired by the ancient heritage of the region, while providing unique and distinctive entertainment attractions for guests of all age groups, enriching their quality of life.”

AlDawood also adds the company’s “sincere appreciation” to its strategic partners for supporting its efforts to develop the entertainment landscape in the region.

Some of SEVEN’s upcoming projects are located in 14 cities across the kingdom: Riyadh, Kharj, Makkah, Jeddah, Taif, Dammam, Khobar, Al Ahsa, Madinah, Yanbu, Abha, Jizan, Buraidah, and Tabuk.

Attractions and experiences

Within the architectural landscape of SEVEN Abha, eight distinctive attractions beckon visitors, each contributing to a nuanced tapestry of immersive experiences.

At the heart of this destination lies a family entertainment centre, offering a diverse array of encounters—from classic arcade games and world-class rides to expansive Virtual Reality zones.

One standout feature is the Discovery Adventures jungle-themed edutainment attraction, a collaborative effort with Warner Bros. Discovery Global Themed Entertainment. An outdoor jungle-themed space augments the experience, providing educational entertainment in an exhilarating setting.

The PLAY-DOH-themed entertainment centre, licensed by Hasbro, celebrates children’s creativity, inviting them to explore realms of imagination. Adding a touch of sophistication, a 12-hole indoor golf adventure area boasts the latest technology for a truly immersive gaming venture.

The multipurpose venue caters to enthusiasts of live entertainment events, offering a spectrum of engaging activities. From indoor e-karting on multi-level tracks to a visionary 10-lane bowling concept and a cinematic escape within the 10-screen AMC cinema, SEVEN Abha converges diverse experiences seamlessly under one roof. Beyond entertainment, SEVEN unfolds a diverse array of retail and F&B offerings, ensuring there’s a little something for every visitor.

The architectural prowess behind SEVEN Abha’s entertainment attractions stems from collaborative partnerships with industry leaders such as Cundall, Theme 3, Top Notch, Holofice, Thinkwell, and Sea Quest. These alliances infuse the destination with a design sophistication that aligns with the highest international standards.