The tourism and entertainment sector undoubtedly is one of the most important that countries all over the world rely on to develop and diversify their sources of economy are is considered a mainstay of the economies of some countries.
In Kuwait, unfortunately, the entertainment sector has not been given the importance it deserves. There is no real strategy to simulate the successful experiences of neighboring countries in this field which have taken big strides in developing their tourism facilities.
Experts in the field of tourism told a local Arabic daily that the tourism sector in Kuwait suffers from lack of recreational facilities because there is no independent entity to regulate this sector, in addition to the absence of means to revive this vital sector, the most important of which is opening the door for family and tourist visas.
The experts pointed to several challenges facing investors to establish recreational projects, for example, the scarcity of land and its unjustified high prices, in addition to the lack of manpower specialized in maintaining equipment and gaming devices and the high wages, if any, and with these high costs, the investor may not find it easy to cover operational expenses until 5 years, leave alone the profits.
Sources say these obstacles must be offset by government support to build a tourism economy that enhances the domestic product.
The General Manager of Leaders Group for Consulting and Development and the former assistant undersecretary for the tourism sector, Nabila Al-Anjari, confirmed that there is no vital obstacle preventing the construction of recreational projects in Kuwait, while the real obstacle is the absence of serious government decisions and programs in this regard, especially after some projects were suspended and abandoned for a long time until neglected facilities became ruins.
She explained saying, “when we talk about tourism or recreational projects, we must know that they are not just buildings, but rather a comprehensive economic system, a strategic work and a clear plan be it in the Gulf, at international or Arab level.
Secondly, what is the existing organization or the structure of the tourism sector that will supervise these projects, there must be a competent authority.
Al-Anjari stressed the need for there to be a tourism law and an information system to study the economic impact, in addition to knowing the target group and segments — the youth, the family, or the children — and what is the return from it and in what way the state will benefit and what is the mechanism for receiving land from the state to establish those projects.
It is also necessary to study the social impact of tourism, environmental issues, and the development of Kuwaiti youth, training and teaching them how to manage this type of project, and that there should be colleges and universities that graduate young people for these tasks.
Al-Anjari pointed out that it is very important to provide statistics, database and information on the tourist sites in Kuwait to build a deep and well-defined marketing plan, stressing that the entertainment sector is an integrated tourism umbrella for an economic, social and cultural system.
For his part, the expert and tourism activist Mubarak Abu Hadidah asked about the entity that leads the tourism and entertainment scene in Kuwait.
He pointed out that the country is in a state of confusion due to the intertwining of specializations in governmental and semi-governmental agencies.
He stressed that in order to achieve the advancement of the tourism sector, it is necessary first to classify the sector as an industrial economic activity in Kuwait, and to establish an independent entity of specialists and experts in the field of entertainment and tourism.
Abu Hudaidah feels the private sector is lost between the government confusion and the complex documentary cycle, explaining that if this situation continues, the result will inevitably be the flight of local and foreign investors towards investing outside the country.
In turn, the Executive Vice President of Ajyal Real Estate Entertainment Company, Abdulwahab Al-Arefan, confirmed that the operational process of the entertainment projects requires the provision of a large number of workers and teams to maintain equipment, devices and games, and this is what Kuwait projects lack, in addition to another obstacle represented in the unjustified rise in land prices.
To establish projects, therefore, the investor needs big capital to start his entertainment project, and with high operational costs, this investor may not be able to reach the break-even point between profits and covering operating expenses until approximately 5 years after the establishment of the project.
Al-Arifan said that the profits of entertainment projects depend not only on operating the games, but also from the surrounding facilities such as restaurants, cafes, etc., and in order to reach the stage of achieving profits, there is a need for government support and the provision of appropriate facilities to help such projects continue and achieve their goal, and this support must continue for a period of no less than two or three years to cover, at least, the operating expenses until the project begins to achieve profits, whether the support is financial through partnership between the public and private sectors, or by providing appropriate facilities for the government procedures required to establish any entertainment project.
This is in addition to providing logistical support, providing land and opening the door for visas to bring in the necessary labor to operate this type of project.
The CEO of the Future Child Entertainment Real Estate Company, Faisal Al-Houti, explained that the Corona crisis affected entertainment projects, as the state reduced spending on this vital sector, noting that the nature of the hot climate in Kuwait for most of the year requires the authorities to focus more on indoor entertainment projects that mainly serves citizens and residents and drives the local economy.
He stressed the need for the state to provide the necessary lands for the establishment of these indoor projects, pointing out that the private sector is able to implement medium-sized and large projects, because Kuwait is different from other tourist countries such as the UAE (Dubai) and Saudi Arabia, which depend on foreign tourists, which is the opposite situation in Kuwait, which depends mainly on citizens and residents, and therefore the country is not prepared to establish large projects.
At the same time, Al-Houti stressed the need to open the door for visas to attract tourists from outside Kuwait, as did neighboring countries, because relying on domestic tourism only will not be rewarding and will not achieve the expected return.
5 obstacles hamper the establishment of entertainment projects
— Lack of budget need for such projects
— The hot climatic conditions in Kuwait which necessitate focusing on indoor recreational projects
— The population of Kuwait is small, and not good enough for big recreational projects.
— Scarcity of manpower to operate these projects.
— Lack of liquidity and scarcity of land with the required areas.
9 ways to revive the tourism sector
• The private sector must take charge of operation of entertainment projects of all sizes
• Opening the door for visas to increase the number of visitors
• Provide land and sites for the establishment of projects
• Innovative ideas for entertainment projects
• Opening the door for licenses, providing infrastructure and overcoming all obstacles
• Providing financing services for recreational activities and projects
• Government focus on developing tourism and entertainment system; creating tourism ministry
• Ensuring the establishment of tourism and entertainment programs
• Providing statistics, database and information on tourist places in Kuwait