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As Dubai gears up to host the Expo in 2020, developments to attract tourists to the desert city have begun to take shape around the site and in several newly developed areas. Most of these are mixed-use developments that feature the retail format, along with hotels, residences, and dining and entertainment options. Among these are theme parks, set to position the region as an amusement tourist destination in the coming years.
According to PricewaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) report “UAE’s transformation into a world-class leisure and entertainment destination”, released last year, theme parks in the pipeline will attract approximately 18 million visits by 2021. PwC estimates the total leisure and entertainment market potential in the UAE to almost double to 45 million by 2021, with international tourists accounting for 30 million and residents and friends and relatives of residents totalling a further 15 million.
“The UAE has come a long way to realise its global ambition of becoming a leisure and entertainment hub, and rival Orlando, which is the current market leader. The key to a consistently successful destination is enabling visitors to enjoy multiple attractions. Offering multi-park tickets, all-inclusive packages and coordinated visitor management from booking through inbound and local transportation, hotels and attractions will be crucial,” said Philip Shepherd, Partner, PwC Middle East Hospitality & Leisure Leader.
Among the developments planned to be launched ahead of the Expo is the Dubai Parks and Resorts project, being built over 25 million sq. ft. of land along Shaikh Zayed Road, opposite Palm Jebel Ali. The project will showcase three theme parks, a water park, a hotel and retail dining area, which are all set to open in October 2016.
With a projected revenue of Dh2.4 billion in the first full year of operation, this Dh10.5 billion project is looking to tap into the global theme park market, which accounted for 392 million visits in the top 10 theme parks in 2014, according to infrastructure firm AECOM.
Most theme parks today exist on the American continent, Europe or places like Hong Kong and Singapore in the East. The absence of a development such as this within the Middle East and the Indian sub-continent has prompted developments like Dubai Parks and Resorts to focus attention on bringing the amusement park format to the region.
In an exclusive interview with PW, Raed Kajoor Al Nuaimi, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Parks and Resorts, shared an overview of the development and the market potential for theme parks.
* What is the current status of the Dubai Parks and Resorts Project?
The grand opening of Dubai Parks and Resorts is on track for October 2016. This is the first time in the world that such a project has been undertaken with three theme parks – Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks and Legoland Dubai – a Legoland Water Park, Lapita Hotel and Riverland Dubai, and a retail, dining and entertainment district, all scheduled to open at the same time.
* How does the concept of Dubai Parks and Resorts align with Dubai’s Tourism Vision 2020?
Dubai Parks and Resorts is inspired by the leadership’s vision of positioning Dubai as a recognised global tourist destination and also the Tourism Vision 2020, which, under the guidelines of His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, sets the plan for Dubai to double its annual visitor numbers from 10 million in 2012 to 20 million in 2020, and increase the economic contribution of the tourism sector.
One of the key components of this vision is to encourage more families to visit the region, and Dubai Parks and Resorts seeks to do just that by taking the lead in the development of the theme park sector in the UAE and the Middle East at large. Three billion people live within a four hour flight to Dubai and the park’s East meets West design will appeal to people from across the world of all ages.
* How do you foresee this project competing with other theme park destinations such as Orlando, Hong Kong and Singapore?
We don’t see Dubai Parks and Resorts as competing with other destinations. With Dubai Parks and Resorts, we are creating a world class theme park destination that will cater to people who are within a seven to eight hours flight from Dubai. Home to the world’s busiest airport, Dubai International, the UAE is looking to position itself as a global theme park destination, similar to how Orlando has transitioned over the years with its offerings for its visitors.
We see Dubai Parks and Resorts as a unique complementary offering, as we take the lead in establishing the theme park industry in this region.
* Which theme park brands is the project tying up with?
Dubai Parks and Resorts will be the only destination in the world offering the finest of Hollywood, interactive entertainment and Bollywood all in one place, providing families with a world class theme park experience.
The destination will see a number of world firsts – such as Bollywood Parks Dubai, the first ever park themed around the phenomenally successful Mumbai film industry.
Motiongate Dubai will offer a combination of movie-themed attractions via its partnerships with top Hollywood studios that cannot be seen anywhere else, while Legoland Dubai and the Legoland Water Park will provide two separate destinations specifically tailored for families with children.
Additionally, Lapita Hotel, a Polynesian themed family hotel, and also Riverland Dubai have been designed to appeal not only to visitors from abroad but also to ensure Dubai Parks and Resorts is an exciting place for local residents to enjoy with friends and family.
The plaza at Riverland Dubai is a themed retail, dining, and entertainment waterfront district, which will be the signature entry point to Dubai Parks and Resorts, based around a one kilometre long waterfront.
* What are your views on the amusement park industry in the UAE?
The theme park industry is something that is really starting to be developed in the region and 2016 is set to be a big year for our industry. Currently, the theme park industry in the GCC and wider Mena region is a huge untapped market.
However, with a growing number of theme parks opening in the UAE in 2016 and beyond, it is set to become the theme park destination of choice for those living within a 7-8 hour flight time from the UAE. This is something we are very excited to be a part of.
Source: Manika Dhama, Special to Property Weekly