‘Incredible to see men and women dancing’: Music events in Saudi Arabia to rise by 600 percent

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In Saudi Arabia Music events will rise by up to 600 per cent from 2019, according to the kingdom’s Assistant Minister for Tourism, Princess Haifa bint Mohammed Al Saud, The National has reported.

According to the report, the royal made the comments at the XP Music Conference, a three-day event featuring discussions on Saudi Arabia’s live events sector, held at the Unesco heritage district of Ad Diriyah on the outskirts of Riyadh.

Princess Haifa said music’s growing role in Saudi Arabia’s tourism strategy is in line with international trends faced by the industry for more than a decade.

“People used to travel for nature, and then they started to travel for culture and now it’s about lifestyle.

“It’s about meeting other like-minded people from across the globe and sharing what they are passionate about. The creative industries, such as music, is at the very heart of that,” she said.

“You are talking about 25 per cent of the UK and US population, pre Covid-19, of course, travelling to attend at least one music festival a year.

“This tells you where the world is shifting and where it is growing. So where we had 101 concerts in Saudi Arabia in 2019, before the pandemic, we are looking at increasing that number by 500 or 600 per cent from 2022 on.”

Saudi Arabia’s move to embed music with large-scale festivals and events wasn’t part of the initial plan, Princess Haifa revealed.

She recalled seeing the potential during the 2018 Ad Diriyah ePrix Formula E championship, held at the Riyadh Street Circuit.

As secretary-general of Formula E Holdings at the time, she was in charge of organising the championship first race in Mena.

The weekend also featured a programme of evening concerts by DJ David Guetta, pop star Enrique Iglesias and groups One Republic and Black Eyed Peas.

With more than 60,000 people in attendance at each concert, Princess Haifa said the success of the concerts pointed a new way forward for the kingdom’s tourism industry.

“That event made us realise that there is an appetite both locally and internationally to experience Saudi Arabia and for Saudis to experience their own country,” she said.

“We didn’t have a visa at the time, so we didn’t technically have tourism. We just had religious tourism. So this is where it came about to create a national tourism strategy and create the eVisa.”

The Formula E event also helped place Riyadh on the concert map.

With Guetta returning to the city a year later to perform at the mega dance festival MDLBeast, the Frenchman went on to become an official dance music ambassador for the kingdom’s burgeoning music scene.

As he told The National in a 2019 interview: “It was incredible to see men and women dancing and letting go of everything, I felt like I was part of history. It was a great honour for me to be part of this.”

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