(Bloomberg) -- Saudi officials are doubling the length of an entertainment extravaganza called “Riyadh Season” that will take over the capital for half a year, hoping to attract twice as many international visitors as the last time around.

The festival’s inaugural edition in 2019 lasted three months, sending consumer spending soaring, including money that would have gone abroad in search of entertainment.

This year’s eclectic list of events includes a World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. bout, musical artists like David Guetta, and the chance to smash military tanks into cars in a “Combat Zone.” It coincides with the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Jeddah, where Justin Bieber’s scheduled to perform.

The mix of cultural events, pop-up restaurants and sports matches starting this week could be sustained by domestic demand even if the hoped-for tourists don’t come, said Faisal Bafarat, chief executive of the General Entertainment Authority, pointing to an upcoming WWE event that sold out almost instantly. 

It’s all part of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s plans to diversify away from oil. Expanding the nascent entertainment sector, it’s hoped, will draw back more Saudi spending that used to go overseas because it had little outlet in the once-austere Islamic kingdom. 

Despite the pandemic, officials are targeting 11.5 million visitors -- including half a million international tourists -- for the festival, which they hope will help fill hotels and line the pockets of local Uber drivers after the economy contracted 4.1% last year.

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In November 2019, the festival helped restaurants and cafes report an 54% annual increase in the number of electronic point-of-sales transactions. The government spent 3.1 billion riyals ($830 million) on events that year, generating 6 billion riyals in “direct and indirect” revenue, according to entertainment authority chairman Turki Al Ashikh.

The pandemic increased costs of hosting the season by about 30%, Bafarat said. But authorities relaxed coronavirus-related restrictions this month as cases dropped, doing away with wearing masks outdoors and making it easier for the events to host big numbers.

Some attractions, like the flagship shopping-and-dining district called “The Boulevard,” will be turned into year-round destinations owned by the Public Investment Fund, the kingdom’s sovereign wealth vehicle, Bafarat said.

At opposite ends of the event spectrum are plans for a poetry festival and the “Combat Zone,” which will range through the history of conflict from gladiators to drones. “That’s the one zone that we’re betting on being a hit,” Bafarat said.

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