Entertainment pioneer<!-- -->

Amusement ride at a Hokair park.

With more than 60 amusements parks, 130 restaurants and several hotels spread across Saudi Arabia, the A M Al Hokair & Sons Group is one of the leading travel and tourism industry operator in the kingdom.

"Our name is directly connected to entertainment in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia," says Jamal Al Abdallah, regional director of sales and marketing for the group in Eastern province.

The founder and chairman, Abdul Mohsen Al Hokair is a pioneering figure in the field of tourism, having been in business since 1965.

Al Hokair opened his first amusement park at Rabwa in Riyadh in 1969, and the multi-faceted group that he heads even today is one of the largest in the field of amusement and water parks, resorts, family fun centres, tourism projects, luxury apartments, hotels, plastic and rides factories in Saudi Arabia.

Al Hokair is the founder chairman of the National Tourism Committee and currently chairs the Gulf Tourism Committee which oversees entertainment and tourism activities in the kingdom.

"Our early entry into the entertainment business gave us an edge that we are still enjoying," said Abdallah.

He welcomed the government's increased focus on tourism as an essential element of the economy.

"The Government has taken all desirable measures to promote domestic tourism," he said, adding tourism in Saudi Arabia had an unrealised potential. The group which expects to entertain 10 million visitors per year, recently opened its biggest Al Hokair Land Theme Park in Riyadh.

The SR180 million ($48 million) park provides futuristic family entertainment with five themes based on the kingdom, Europe, Asia, America and Africa and expects to entertain one million visitors a year.

Besides the major parks, the group also operates several mobile parks to cover smaller towns. It also operates three bowling centres and has the biggest games and rides manufacturing factory of its kind in the Middle East which supplies and maintains the parks nationwide.

Abdallah attributed the popularity of the group's amusement parks to the different variety and sizes of the rides and games offered which suit all ages.

The ideal locations of the parks which offered easy access were also a key reason, he said.

"The prices have been carefully set to meet with the budget of both locals and expatriates," said Abdallah.

Hotels and furnished apartments of the group include five star properties operated by Holiday Inn, Golden Tulip, Flamingo and Andalusia chains which include the recently opened Holiday Inn Al Khobar and the Olaya Holiday Inn.

A resort project is also under construction. The Halfmoon Bay Resort which is set to open near Al Khobar later this year is expected to further boost Al Hokair Group.

The group's restaurant interests features such brands as American A & W Restaurants, Perky's Pizza, Café de Paris, Al Shira Lebanese Restaurant, Fish Market among others.

In one of its latest expansion, Al Hokair has its maiden Al Hokair Fun & Shop commercial complex in Al Khobar. It also has three plastic manufacturing and recycling factories in three regions of the kingdom.

Outside the kingdom, the group has investments in Tunisia and Morocco as well as other Middle East countries.