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Dubai: With more than 50 per cent of the site-wide infrastructure in place, the multibillion dirham Dubai Parks and Resorts development is cruising along to its opening day in October next. Development costs on the future destination — which will feature as many as 100 rides and attractions from the opening day — is expected to hit the Dh5.9 billion mark by year-end.
And each passing week will keep adding to the project milestones. By the end of the year, 65 per cent of the entire resort development, 100 per cent of the infrastructure for the projects and 99 per cent of the ride engineering and manufacturing are in line for completion.
“At the 30 per cent mark itself of the project, we could say we have moved into autopilot mode,” said Raed Al Nuaimi, CEO. “Because by that stage and for a project of this scope, the major risks are behind it, because all of the design works have been done, the contracts ordered, etc.
“Our target is to start the testing phase for the rides and the other elements by September and keep at it running right until the opening day. There will always be bits and pieces details to be done.”
But well before September, the key attractions within the destination will be handed over to the operators to do their bit. The 850-seat Rajmahal Theatre at the “Bollywood’ Parks” cluster should be handed over in February as per the current schedule. That is when the fit-outs of the attractions will start in earnest. In this regard, Mumbai-based Wizcraft is responsible for all integrating all of the “soft” elements into the bigger picture.
Borrowing a phrase from movie lingo, the project is aiming for blockbuster proportions. “The international standard is to have about 30 rides and attractions for a theme park development — we are doing 100 rides and have three themed destinations within the main one,” said Al Nuaimi. “But the one thing we will not do is bring in attraction that would compete with the other offers.”
“This is a 25 million square feet site … within this we have enough to consider expansions for the next 10 years. For instance, the motiongate cluster (where the DreamWorks building is sited) has access to 4 million square feet, of which we are using only half as of now.
“As for now, no changes have been made to the original master plan. We are focused on executing the original design and delivering this project on time and on budget.”
Future options could include adding to the hospitality component located within. As of now, there is only one project that has been announced — the 500-room and three-villa Lapita. On whether it wouldn’t be better to plan for more right now given the visitor numbers DPR is forecasting, Al Nuaimi said: “We need to see more demand being created for hotel rooms before we announce more.
“It won’t do to swamp the destination with hotel capacity and then obsess over filling them up in the future. Rather, we will take a phased approach and demand has to be there first.
“Apart from Lapita, we will have arrangements with city hotels to take care of our future visitors in the initial periods. These will be done through special packages with Dnata.”
And the projected visitor numbers are very much on the substantial side — 6.7 million in the first year of operations from October 2016 across all three theme parks and together generating revenues of Dh2.4 billion.
By the first quarter of 2016, details of the ticketing rates should be finalised, and the developer is looking at the experiences of similar developments in Singapore and France to decide what is optimal. There will be many packages, including daily, multiple-entry and annual passes.
By February next, it will start marketing the destination heavily to target audiences in the other Gulf states and beyond. It has just gone for visibility on Facebook and has been tapping other social media platforms through recent months.
Progress is being made securing retail and F&B tenants for the 56 outlets at the “Riverland Dubai” cluster. Twelve leases have been signed, accounting for 19 per cent of the total. A “big” anchor tenant is to be confirmed by early 2016.
“The master plan has made provisions for empty spaces scattered across the destination and which could be used later for similar retail/entertainment offerings,” the CEO said. “But these can be created without in any way being a distraction to the completed areas.
“We will be nearing the Dh6 billion expenditure mark by year-end and we have enough to take us right through to the opening date. And contingency plans were made right at the beginning for any unforeseen circumstances that might arise.”
On working with the ‘stars’ and more
* There will be nine attractions built around Bollywood blockbusters such as “Sholay”, “Lagaan”, “Krrish”, “Sholay” and “Dabaang”. Dubai Parks and Resorts have got tie-ups with entities representing the likes of Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Farhan Akthar. “The attractions at Bollywood Parks are their intellectual properties and all of them have reached the production phase,” said Raed Al Nuaimi, CEO. “They are involved in all the aspects and the stars have to sign off on each prop and character. Some of them will start shooting their “roles” for the rides at Mumbai studios.”
* Bollywood Parks Dubai is built over 1.7 million square feet, with the Rajmahal Theatre to host a separately ticketed, full-scale Broadway-style Bollywood themed musical.
* Most of the external work on the Rajmahal is complete. The internal work, including the elaborate staging, is underway.