Transport strategies will boost the Gulf's entertainment sector

Public authorities in Saudi Arabia and the UAE emirate of Sharjah are adopting transport strategies that could help secure the growth of their entertainment properties

COMMENT, Business, Chinese transit systems, Dubai, Entertainment sector, Gcc, Public Investment Fund (PIF), Rta, Saudi Arabia, Transport, Uae

As the rapid development of Chinese transit systems shows, engineering integrated, futuristic cities requires a layered approach.

From the Silk Road of yore to the ‘trackless’ autonomous rail rapid transit (ART) system now being tested in Hunan, China’s transport initiatives have played an instrumental role in the country’s rise as a global superpower. In the pursuit of modern transit systems, Gulf nations appear to be on a similar path of infrastructure-building – and the entertainment real estate sector is a key part of these plans.

Last week, it was revealed that Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), planned to launch a company that would act as the operator of ‘heli-taxis’ in the kingdom. According to a PIF document, the kingdom presents “opportunities to invest in heli-taxi services for tourists and businessmen, in order to make [Saudi Arabia’s] discovery and intra-city mobility easier”.

One of the services that the PIF company would offer upon its launch was tourist trips to various attractions, including landmarks in Riyadh and Jeddah, as well as the recently announced 34,000km2 Red Sea project. Additionally, a service such as PIF’s proposed heli-taxi operation would support Saudi’s Vision 2030 programme, which – according to PIF’s document – aims to increase the kingdom’s rate of household spending on entertainment from 2.9% to 6% in the years to come.

Last week also saw the UAE’s Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) signing an agreement with the app-based car booking service, Careem, in the emirate. Marwan bin Jassim Al Sarkal, chief executive officer of Shurooq and vice chairperson of Shurooq Al Emarat’s board, said the deal with Careem would help the authority meet its “smart mobility” ambitions, and offer “access to more transport options, particularly with a view to the massive [growth in the number] of entertainment and cultural events being organised” in Sharjah.

Targeting new transport infrastructure to address the needs of real estate hotspots – especially entertainment and cultural facilities that record high footfall – is a common-sense approach that can be seen throughout the UAE. In 2016, Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) announced the completion of $68m (AED250m) worth of bridges and roads at Dubai Parks and Resorts, which included the integration of entry and exit points to link the theme park with Sheikh Zayed Road in the direction of Abu Dhabi.

More recently, RTA awarded a $4m (AED14.9m) contract to build a road connecting Sheikh Rashid Street to Culture Village. Construction works for the road will be implemented in collaboration with Culture Village’s developer, Dubai Properties Group.

Saudi Arabia’s and the UAE’s latest announcements indicate that a macro-level view is being taken of the beneficial link between transport infrastructure and real estate hubs, and the implementation of such integrated initiatives will support the growth of the Gulf’s nascent – but promising – entertainment sector.

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