The Business Year

ALOTHAIM

SAUDI ARABIA - Tourism

Mohammed Attia

CEO, Al Othaim Entertainment

Bio

Mohamed Attia is an accomplished leader with two decades of experience in the leisure sector. He excels in organizational development, management, and planning, consistently finding win-win solutions. Combining customer focus with strong financial management, he maximizes revenue and shareholder value. With an MBA from Cambridge University, UK, Attia is energetic and strategic, steering the leisure business to achieve company goals. He values teamwork and embraces challenging projects. He is driving significant expansion in Saudi Arabia’s leisure industry.

"In addition to our strong presence in Saudi Arabia, we are witnessing significant growth in several other key markets within the GCC and beyond."

TBY talks to Mohammed Attia, CEO of Al Othaim Entertainment, about Vision 2030, expansion beyond Saudi Arabia, and goals for 2024. How would you define the trends shaping the Saudi entertainment industry?

The entertainment industry in Saudi Arabia is undergoing a profound transformation, primarily driven by Vision 2030’s ambitious objective to diversify the economy and diminish reliance on oil revenues. Central to this metamorphosis is the government’s substantial investment, spearheaded by the General Entertainment Authority (GEA), aimed at enhancing the quality of life through a variety of entertainment options. This strategic focus is manifest in colossal infrastructure projects such as Qiddiya, the Red Sea Project, and NEOM, which are poised to feature an array of attractions including theme parks, cultural centers, cinemas, and sports venues. These initiatives are designed to draw both domestic and international tourists, significantly boosting the hospitality and service sectors. The reintroduction of cinemas has been a particularly notable trend following the 2018 lifting of a 35-year ban. International cinema chains such as AMC, VOX, and Cinemacity have rapidly entered the market, catering to the burgeoning demand for movie-going, thereby creating new revenue streams and employment opportunities. Music and live events have also seen substantial growth, with Saudi Arabia now hosting major festivals and concerts featuring renowned international artists. Cultural heritage initiatives, exemplified by the Diriyah Gate project, underscore the Kingdom’s commitment to leveraging its rich historical tapestry for tourism and educational purposes, attracting culturally inclined visitors and fostering national pride. Additionally, high-profile sports events, including the Dakar Rally, Formula E races, and heavyweight boxing matches, are establishing Saudi Arabia as a hub for international sports, further invigorating the sports tourism industry. The integration of advanced technologies, such as VR, AR, and AI, is another significant trend, enhancing entertainment experiences and positioning Saudi Arabia as a leader in innovative entertainment solutions. Tourism promotion programs, like the Saudi Seasons, which organize events and festivals year-round across various regions, aim to establish Saudi Arabia as a perennial destination for global travelers, thereby stimulating the local economy. The entertainment landscape is becoming increasingly diverse, catering to various demographics and preferences, with family-oriented attractions, youth-centric events, and culturally significant activities ensuring broad appeal and sustained engagement. Furthermore, international collaborations are on the rise, with Saudi Arabia forging strategic partnerships with global entertainment entities and international sports federations. These alliances not only bring world-class entertainment experiences to the Kingdom but also open avenues for knowledge transfer and investment, solidifying Saudi Arabia’s position as a burgeoning entertainment hub in the region. Overall, Saudi Arabia’s strategic efforts are transforming its entertainment industry into a significant economic pillar, aligning with the broader goals of economic diversification and sustainable growth under Vision 2030.

Improving the quality of life for Saudi citizens and residents is a key focus of Vision 2030. How does your company contribute to this objective through its entertainment offerings?

As a pivotal player in Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, Al Othaim Entertainment is dedicated to enhancing the nation’s socio-economic landscape and enriching individual lives. Our company’s commitment is evidenced by our delivery of projects worth an impressive SAR7.4 billion and the ongoing construction of developments valued at over SAR10 billion. This underscores our significant presence and unwavering dedication. In 2023, we reached critical milestones by executing our strategic initiatives and establishing a robust foundation for further expansion. We have forged strategic partnerships with prominent entities such as the Tourism Development Fund, the Quality of Life Program, and the Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, reinforcing our commitment to comprehensive growth and collaboration. Our portfolio has been significantly elevated by recent projects, including the launch of Konoz Riyadh, a USD1.86-billion fully integrated community. This development features commercial offices, entertainment venues, retail spaces, food and beverage outlets, a cinema, a luxury hotel with serviced apartments, and premium residential areas. Konoz Riyadh also embodies our dedication to sustainability, incorporating 15,000sqm of green spaces in line with the Green Riyadh initiative. We have also introduced new developments such as Al Othaim Mall in Jubail and Mithneb, and Al Othaim Complex in North Riyadh, while expanding Rabwah Mall and Khurais Mall in Riyadh. Our mixed-use developments in Madinah and Khamis Mushait are strategically located and designed to create spaces that are both functional and aesthetically pleasing, seamlessly integrating into their surroundings. Additionally, we have marked a significant milestone in Hail with the groundbreaking of Al Othaim City Centre, a SAR100-million major development that plays a crucial role in our expansion strategy. This project offers 48,000sqm of prime rental space and 7,000sqm of open-air opportunities, featuring an international-standard hotel, diverse shops, an array of restaurants, state-of-the-art entertainment options, an advanced cinema, open-air sports shops, and a convenient supermarket. Driven by a passion for excellence, our vision is to be the region’s premier destination for living, shopping, and entertainment. We believe in building communities that enhance the quality of life and foster vibrant, enjoyable experiences for all.

What is your strategy to reconfirm the leadership of this brand in the local market?

Our strategy to reaffirm our brand’s leadership in the local market involves a multi-faceted approach. We are actively planning to expand our presence in each city by opening new entertainment venues, acquiring or franchising existing ones, and securing necessary licenses. We are on the verge of signing several agreements that will bring many of these brands under our umbrella soon. Promoting the franchising model is also a key component of our strategy. We are currently exploring how to franchise our brands across the entire GCC, covering areas such as mini bars, candy, gifts, and our expertise in building the right entertainment experiences. This involves leveraging our operating manuals and procurement processes to ensure consistency and quality. Partnerships play a crucial role in our approach, as they help us cement, consolidate, and expand our operations. We have a well-defined expansion strategy that we will announce soon, outlining our ambitious plans to grow further. We see numerous opportunities ahead, and it is essential to choose the right ones with the appropriate financial models and operating systems. We are confident in our capabilities and have a clear understanding of what needs to be done to reach agreements with landlords and partners, ensuring we operate effectively in the market. We view the current landscape as filled with growth opportunities rather than challenges, and we are prepared to capitalize on these prospects to maintain and strengthen our market leadership.

What other countries are driving the company’s growth other than Saudi Arabia?

In addition to our strong presence in Saudi Arabia, we are witnessing significant growth in several other key markets within the GCC and beyond. The UAE is experiencing robust expansion, fueled by its dynamic entertainment and leisure sectors. Similarly, Egypt is showing promising growth, driven by increasing demand for high-quality leisure experiences. Notably, Qatar stands out as a major growth area for us, with substantial developments and investments in the entertainment industry. This market is rapidly evolving and has become a primary focus for our expansion efforts outside of Saudi Arabia. Overall, these countries are pivotal in our strategy to broaden our footprint and reinforce our leadership in the region.

What are your main priorities and targets for 2024?

In 2024, our focus is on comprehensive transformation to prepare for the next era of our operations. This entails a holistic overhaul, touching every facet of our business, including people, operations, health, and safety. Our goal is to lay a robust foundation this year that will solidify our position and readiness for the future. We are undertaking significant rebranding efforts, updating our regulatory frameworks, and fostering innovations. This includes integrating cutting-edge technology and introducing new assets, rides, and attractions to enhance our offerings. This transformative phase is designed to ensure that we are well-equipped to embrace new operational models and set the stage for an even more dynamic and successful future. 2025 will mark a distinct new chapter, building on the groundwork we are establishing now.

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