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The recently concluded Hotel Show in Dubai saw a strong focus directed towards leisure and outdoor offerings due to a rising demand for leisure-related products and venues in the country.
Co-located with the Hotel Show, The Leisure Show has evolved as a result of significant growth in the leisure sector in the GCC and around the world. With the global leisure and entertainment industry set to reach a value of $31.8 billion (Dh116.81 billion) in the next three years, The Leisure Show attracted eager owners, managers, buyers and decision makers from the hospitality, tourism and leisure industries.
As Dubai readies itself to welcome a targeted 20 million tourists by 2020, leisure activities and outdoor entertainment offerings are also playing an increasingly important role in this regard.
''Tourism has been a catalyst for the growth of the global entertainment and leisure industries,'' says Christine Davidson, Director of The Hotel Show, in a statement. ''Theme parks alone will reach an expected value of Dh116 billion globally by 2017, with upcoming theme park projects in the GCC, including the development of IMG World of Adventure in Dubai [at an estimated cost of Dh4 billion], the indoor Majarat Oman theme park [Dh1.1 billion], the relaunch of the Jungle Zone theme park in Qatar and the construction of Red Sea Astrarium in Jordan.''
Davidson says the Middle East's strategic location and the continued investment in airports and infrastructure will make the region more attractive to travellers over the next ten years.
''Combining this with future mega events to be held in the region, the development of leisure and entertainment attractions for international visitors is creating a wealth of opportunities,'' she says.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council Economic Impact 2014, travel and tourism contributed Dh17.4 billion or 8.4 per cent of the UAE's GDP last year. Experts believe this will grow annually by 31 per cent and reach Dh167.4 billion by 2024.
A recent report by JLL's Hotels and Hospitality Group also revealed that Dubai registered a steady increase in hotel guests, at a compound annual growth rate of 8 per cent from 2009-13.
Global suppliers from France, Italy, China, Finland, Portugal, the UK, Canada, Spain, Belgium, the US and the UAE took part in The Leisure Show. Numerous projects ranging from leisure and beachfront schemes to retail and residential complexes were announced.
Meraas Holding unveiled plans for the Dubai Parks and Resorts project, including phase one, which will feature three theme parks, a themed family hotel and a retail and dining district.
Being developed in Jebel Ali, the mega leisure and entertainment destination will primarily serve the regions within an eight-hour flying distance from Dubai.
Since the announcement of a Dh10 billion investment in the project in 2012, Meraas has made substantial progress towards finalising key components and partnerships with global movie studios, construction firms and theme park operators.
The first phase of Dubai Parks and Resorts will comprise three theme parks: Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai and Legoland Dubai. The development will also feature Riverpark, a grand entrance plaza, and Lapita, a family-themed hotel. The first phase is scheduled for completion in 2016, while groundwork commenced on site in February.
5 million tourists
''Meraas is committed to developing new concepts to build Dubai's position as one of the world's great new cities,'' says Abdulla Al Habbai, Chairman of Meraas Holding. ''Dubai Parks and Resorts has been designed as the first-of-its-kind entertainment destination that simultaneously opens the gates of three theme parks. The project will feature leading intellectual properties from elite industry players to create leisure and entertainment concepts that are expected to draw more than five million residents and tourists annually.
''We are confident our efforts will contribute to achieving the Dubai Tourism Vision 2020 and become the pride of our nation. We are excited to signal the start of an ambitious destination that is anticipated to generate thousands of new jobs as an international entertainment hub.''
Other projects with major leisure components have also been announced, including Nakheel's newly opened Discovery Gardens Pavilion, which comprises nearly 30 shops, restaurants and cafes, and the expansion of Burjuman Mall, which will see the opening of a 14-screen Vox Cinema, an extensive children's entertainment zone and new retail outlets.
Meydan Group also announced two mixed-use living and leisure developments, Meydan Avenue and Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum City-District Eleven, while a three-tower living and leisure complex at the Palm Monorail Gateway terminal on Palm Jumeirah is being developed.
Meraas Holding also launched La Mer, a mixed use beachfront development in the vicinity of Pearl Jumeirah Island.
Meanwhile, many parks across Dubai will undergo major revamps as well. In July, it was announced that parks throughout the city will become disabled-friendly by the end of 2016. Under the programme, around 20 per cent of parks, theme parks and squares will be easily accessible to persons who use wheelchairs, the blind and those with other disabilities.
Speaking to Gulf News, Hussain Nasser Lootah, Director General of Dubai Municipality, says: ''We have already paid considerable attention to the specifications of buildings and other facilities, such as streets and markets, and now parks are the next category under our focus. To create disabled friendly parks, all exits and entrances will have smooth floors to help the movement of wheelchairs, and there will be special games and rides dedicated to them.
''Toilets and restaurants will also have to be modified, and all other types of services will cater to children with or without disabilities.''
The project is expected to start this month. It will include all the major theme parks and residential areas in the emirate.
Get an insight into Dubai laying the foundations for mega theme parks
Source: Gareth Kurt Warren, Features Writer, Property Weekly