$130 Wagyu beef steaks being served in the replica of Carbone, a Michelin-starred restaurant in New York, has lead Saudis to debate on monetary costs of Crown prince Mohammed bin Salman's plans to conduct events such as the Riyadh Season.
Prince Salman has taken steps to change the conservative State's reputation by making decisions such as reducing restrictions on cinema, live music and opening new facilities to foreign tourists.
However, the Riyadh Season, a government-sponsored initiative consisting of a variety of food items, sports events, carnivals and concerts, has prompted a debate that the high prices of few of the events or restaurants could bar a few people from attending the event. According to reports, the Riyadh season has generated a billion riyals in terms of revenue but has not resulted in a profit for the Saudi Government.
Chief executive of the General Entertainment Authority, Faisal Bafarat said the main attraction of the Riyadh season, a complex called Riyadh Boulevard was built with a capacity to accommodate 35,000 people but 1.2 million people showed up on the first day. Bafarat said in order to control the swelling numbers, authorities implemented a 50 riyals charge will be doubled to 100 Riyals.
Bafarat said the Saudi government tried to lay out options for everyone such as concerts featuring local and foreign musicians., a winter-themed amusement park etc. However, complaints were mostly related to a restaurant from Ibiza that required a potential patron to pay 5,000 Riyals to make a reservation or VIP tickets that could only be bought by paying thousands of Riyals.
A soldier, Al Subaei said that there are many people with a monthly earning of 30,000 Riyals and people with a mere earning of 5,000 Riyals per month. Subaei said that for a person earning 5,000, it will be difficult for him/her to eat at expensive restaurants or attend concerts with tickets worth thousands of Riyals.
Saudi Seasons is an initiative kickstarted by The Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage. In the year 2019, a total of 11 seasons were planned to take place in regions across Saudi Arabia. The first season of the Saudi Season initiative will focus on Saudi culture and heritage.
The 11 seasons are as follows- Riyadh season, Jeddah season, Eastern province season, Taif season, Hail season, Ramadan season, Eid Al-Fitr season, National Day season, Al-Diriyah season, Al Soudah season, Al-Ula season.