Cairo: After nearly five months of thrills and entertainment, the Riyadh Season, an annual Saudi festival, wrapped up earlier this week, drawing 20 million visitors from inside and outside the kingdom, the organisers have said.

“We have achieved a new record as Riyadh Season reaches 20 million visitors,” Turki Alalsheikh, the head of the General Entertainment Authority (GEA) said.

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“Riyadh Season 2023. What a beautiful journey we’ve lived through. See you all in the next Riyadh Season,” he added in an X post.

In September, Alalsheikh said they expect 10-12 million visitors at the Riyadh Season. He added that 40% of the anticipated revenue from the event had already been achieved through sponsorship deals.

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The fourth edition of the Riyadh Season kicked off on October 28 with specular shows including an epic fight that saw British boxer Tyson Fury outrivaling former world champion in mixed martial arts Francis Ngannou in a showdown dubbed the “battle of the baddest”.

The festival was packed with premium events including tennis, snooker and football tournaments.

Touted as an entertainment and tourist magnet, the Riyadh Season offered a variety of choices for visitors comprising entertainment, fashion, electronic games, fine arts, handicrafts, cuisine, shopping and thematic zones.

12 venues

Its events this year were spread over 12 venues in Riyadh, also featuring concerts by world celebrities, theatrical shows, and restaurants serving a variety of mouth-watering international cuisine.

The Boulevard World zone, a major feature of the festival, introduced new entertainment experiences after its space had increased by over 40%.

New venues for the latest edition also included the state-of-the area Boulevard Hall set up on an area of 200 ,000 square metres to accommodate up to 40,000 visitors at one time.

Launched in 2019, the Riyadh Season aims to turn the city into a global entertainment and tourist destination.

The second edition of the festival kicked off in October 2021 after it was suspended the previous year due to the global pandemic. The third was unveiled in October 2022.

The entertainment industry has thrived in Saudi Arabia in recent years as the kingdom is seeking to diversify its oil-reliant economy and attract more foreign visitors.

In May 2016, the kingdom established GEA, a state agency that has since sponsored a slew of stellar concerts, stage shows and festivals.