Hiba Tawaji
Lebanese singer Hiba Tawaji became the first woman to perform at a public concert in Saudi Arabia in December

Saudi Arabia just took another major step to improve cultural opportunities in the kingdom.

On Saturday, Riyadh announced the creation of a new Ministry of Culture, dividing the previous Ministry of Culture and Information into two separate government departments, Arab News reported.

The kingdom has appointed Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan Al-Saud, who is currently the governor of the Royal Commission for Al-Ula, to lead the new ministry.

As part of Saudi Arabia's ambitious Vision 2030 national transformation plan, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has pushed for greater cultural and entertainment options in the kingdom. 

Since the plan was initiated in 2016, the kingdom has opened its doors wide to a range of new cultural activities. Public concerts, international conferences, cinemas and other entertainment options have come to the kingdom, with young Saudis expressing enthusiasm for the changes.

Although conservatives in the kingdom have expressed criticism of some of the changes, MBS and the Saudi leadership have pushed forward with social reforms.

Riyadh created the General Entertainment Authority in 2016

In 2016, the kingdom also established the General Entertainment Authority, headed by Amr al-Madani, to enhance the cultural and entertainment sector within the country.

Such efforts by the kingdom are aimed at encouraging economic growth, international investment and creating jobs. Riyadh also aims to open the kingdom up to more international visitors.

In December, the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage (SCTH) in Jeddah issued the first license allowing a travel agency to issue tourist visas. Formerly, visas were only available to pilgrims, business people with a local sponsor and family members of residents.

Last summer, Riyadh allocated $2.67 billion to the SCTH to develop and rebuild tourism projects in the country. At the time, SCTH explained that it would receive 40 percent of the recently allocated government funds, while the remaining 60 percent would be distributed among its government partners. 

Red Sea resort with "independent laws"

The kingdom also announced during summer plans to drastically develop a massive portion of its Red Sea coast, catering to luxury beach tourists.  

According to a document initially reported by Bloomberg, the development will be a "semi-autonomous" area within the kingdom, leading to speculation that the kingdom's traditional rules on dress and prohibition on alcohol will not be applied. 

The document said the area will be ruled "by independent laws and a regulatory framework developed and managed by a private committee."