The General Entertainment Authority has granted licences to more than 24 theme parks and 421 entertainment centers.
Riyadh: As Saudi Arabia continues to develop and diversify its economy, reducing dependence on oil, the water park industry in the Kingdom is gaining momentum. With Vision 2030 prioritizing tourism, developers are becoming more creative about how to incorporate aquatics into the entertainment space.
The growing number of water parks and aquatic entertainment sites indicates that property developers are finding new ways to integrate water rides into venues to create experiences that surprise and delight guests from all over the world.
The total number of entertainment venues in the Kingdom is expected to exponentially grow, with licenses being granted for more than 24 amusement parks and 421 entertainment centers in January 2023. Offering benefits for both tourists and locals alike, the joy of playing with water is something that people never seem to tire of.
Whether visiting animals at the zoo and seeing a splash pad for kids, shopping at the mall and witnessing a FlowRider® surf simulator, or staying at a hotel with a full set of water slides, these attractions are growing rapidly due to their contribution in raising the overall quality of life, helping to form healthy relationships, and driving economic growth.
Going down a water slide, swimming in the backyard pool, or surfing in the Red Sea —the ways to have fun with water are limitless. Because of its widespread versatility, property developers in Saudi Arabia are using water as the driving force behind a variety of venue types.
Enhancing the Quality of Life
The Quality of Life Program under Saudi Vision 2030 aims to enhance livability for individuals and families by creating environments to support new lifestyle options, and water parks will play an important role in achieving this goal as they bring the joy of water to landlocked areas. Researchers have found that the more time people spend near water, the better they feel due to the water’s ability to calm the mind, reduce stress and improve mental health.
One of the growing venue types in the Kingdom is the surf park, where guests can grab a meal, surf, and enjoy the beach. Surf therapy is also known to enhance mental and physical health. The International Surf Therapy Organization in Dubai is using the sport to help young people deal with anxiety, with qualified surf instructors conducting two-hour after-school sessions. The five-week course led to improvements in general mental health perception, as reported on the Stirling Child Wellbeing Scale, which is used to measure emotional and psychological well-being in children aged 8-15.
These sentiments were also echoed by a 2018 research study where parents of autistic children said surf therapy helped reduce anxiety and promote better sleep for their children, illustrating the profound impact aquatics can have on the quality of life.
Bringing People Together
Aquatic amenities also create a healthy, safe place for people to come together. With a large variety of attractions, water parks offer a natural way for parents to interact with their kids by either enjoying the different water rides with them or exploring the interactive elements on a multi-level aquatic play structure. These places offer a place for teens who want the freedom to hangout on their own to experience something that keeps them out of boredom while still challenging them and offering thrills.
“Water parks have long been recognized as a place where families can come together and spend the day,” said Mike Rigby, GM & RVP for WhiteWater, a world-leading aquatic entertainment designer and manufacturer.
“A staple of water parks that goes back since the beginning of our company 40 years ago is the family raft ride. A fixture in most water parks, family raft rides allow entire families to ride together so they can watch each other’s expressions and enjoy the experience together,” he added.
Driving Economic Growth
Water parks also generate economic benefits for the local community through job creation, tourism, and tax revenue. They create an external income source by bringing in tourists and attracting them to spend money on businesses like lodging, transportation, and dining.
Globally, the revenue generated by tourism is estimated at $7 trillion per year, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). In the GCC, along with direct and indirect contribution, the Middle East’s travel and tourism industry currently generates $237 billion worth of economic activities and represents 8.7% of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Rigby said: “Trade, tourism, and retail are key economic growth drivers that will push the economies of GCC countries in the years to come”.
“These sectors are playing a pivotal role in diversifying the economy of the Gulf countries, and I look forward to seeing the success of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia continue to grow as it continues to develop new offerings and bring in international guests from around the world,” he added.
The spending on leisure amusement and theme parks in the Middle East and Africa is expected to reach $609 million in 2023, with customer attendance projected to increase at a 12.2% compound annual rate to 13 million in 2023 from 7.3 million in 2018, demonstrating a substantial rise in demand for such entertainment destinations in the region.