The Saudi Vision 2030 upholds Saudi Arabia’s plan to diversify its economy and address the challenges brought by low global energy prices. Vision 2030 also aims to create a vibrant society by promoting a healthy lifestyle and well-being — physical and social. The Quality of Life Program was launched in May 2018 to deliver on this objective. Sport is central to this program, with several initiatives aiming at encouraging mass participation, improving Saudi Arabia’s athletes’ performance in international competitions and growing the sports economy.
In a short time, Saudi Arabia has leaped to the forefront of becoming a new breeding ground for a flourishing sports events ecosystem by playing host to some of the biggest and renowned sporting events globally. A thriving sports sector prompts positive spillover and ripple effects in other sectors of the economy such as tourism, national identity and culture, public health and, most notably, youth and social empowerment. Specifically, hosting major sporting events displays Saudi Arabia’s value-driven diversity and inclusiveness, high economic potential and cultural attractiveness to the wider international arena, thereby increasing the inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI). It also enhances the attractiveness and visibility of the nation’s tourism sector.
Economic benefits of sports development
The Government of Saudi Arabia aims to encourage widespread participation in sports activities, diversify the economy and boost the sector’s contribution to GDP. Sports’ contribution to GDP has already grown from US$2.4b in 2016 to US$6.9b in 2019. This growth offers significant development opportunities to Saudi Arabian companies involved in the sports ecosystem, ranging from event organizers, sports facilities providers, to sports services such as gyms. While an impressive start, there is still massive growth potential in terms of GDP growth, FDI and employment, as well as indirect benefits such as stimulating tourism and improving the overall image of the country.
Large-scale, internationally recognized events in the Kingdom present massive partnership, investment and sponsorship opportunities in every part of the sports value chain — venues or facilities, sports leagues or clubs, sports professionals, equipment, merchandising, etc. The development of the sports industry in Saudi Arabia will help promote the country as a prime tourist destination. It will also offer attractive employment opportunities, in competitive sport as well as in the business of sport. Over two-thirds of the Saudi Arabia’s population are under the age of 35 with a growing appetite for sport, driving both event participation and attendance. While appreciating and encouraging sports culture in the country, the history, customs, traditions and culture of the country will be portrayed in a positive lens globally, creating a desire to know more. It helps to improve the image of the nation and build trust. Sports events have the capability to uplift the economic, social, lifestyle and health aspects of Saudi Arabia.
Sports tourism: a blooming opportunity
Sports events are an important component of tourism in general. Inbound attendants to sports events typically combine this with local tourism. Tourism projects are placing sports at the heart of boosting entertainment, hospitality and tourism industries. There is also a broader opportunity in attracting tourists to practice key sports in unique locations of Saudi Arabia’s mega projects. In recognition of sport’s significant economic contribution potential, the Saudi Arabian Government has announced very substantial investment commitments.