The Middle East & North Africa Leisure and Attractions Council (MENALAC), a not-for-profit trade council representing the MENA leisure and attractions industry – hosted a two-day seminar and networking event titled “Focus on Saudi Arabia” in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia from December 5-6, 2018. The purpose of the event was to understand the new opportunities for leisure & attractions business in the Kingdom.
Over 110 delegates comprising leading industry professionals from the MENA leisure and entertainment sector as well as leading amusement suppliers from Europe and the US attended the event. It was sponsored by the Abdul Mohsen Al Hokair Group and Al Othaim Group for Leisure and Tourism, two prominent players in the Saudi Arabia’s leisure industry.
A keynote presentation was made by Mohannad Abanomy, infrastructure development director of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) – the regulatory authority spearheading the change initiatives as part of the Vision 2030 programme of the Kingdom. Commenting on the event, he said, “We are indeed pleased to be a part of this MENALAC event. We do believe in the long-term benefit such events will have in paving the road for expanding the leisure industry in the Kingdom. We foresee a very bright future for the industry and its players from developers, suppliers, designers, operators etc., all of who are pillars of that industry’s value chain. We wanted the delegates to better understand the role of the GEA. The seminar was a platform for us to invite and build fruitful connections with many regional and international experts to support our future growth.”
The status of the leisure business – with perspectives from the past, highlights from the present and prospects for the future – was discussed during a CEOs panel. Moderated by Prakash Vivekanand, secretary general of MENALAC, the speakers included Fahad Al Othaim, CEO, Al Othaim Leisure; Mishal Al Hokair, deputy CEO, Al Hokair Group and vice chairman of MENALAC; and Ghada Al Rashid, CEO, GEXPO. In addition, the panelists shared their views on opportunities available for women within the leisure, entertainment, event and tourism Industry in Saudi Arabia.
One of the major developments in KSA is the opening of cinemas. During a session, one of the licence holders, Majid Al Futtaim’s VOX Cinemas spoke about their ‘KSA Mission’ to open 600 cinema screens by 2022.
Furthermore, topics such as enhancing guest experience using technology to increase repeat visitations to leisure facilities was also discussed.
Safety has always been the prime focus at MENALAC events. Markus Mack-Even and Shyam Pillai from MENALAC’s Safety Committee compared EN and ASTM Safety Standards and spoke about the importance of subscribing to and adhering with international safety standards across the many leisure industry segments.
In his closing remarks, Al Hokair, said, “It is the vision of MENALAC to host such events in every country within the MENA region. This was our first event outside Dubai, and we are overwhelmed by the response we have received for this event. It clearly shows the appetite the market has for such educational initiatives and networking platforms. We thank the GEA for their support, the speakers for their valuable insights and the delegates for joining us. Buoyed by this success, we will surely be looking at organising similar events in other cities of Saudi Arabia such as Dammam and Jeddah in the days to come. These MENALAC initiatives are always customised to suit the operating initiatives and needs of this region, thus making them very purposeful and insightful.”