Dubai – “ASWAQ”
Dubai’s first major theme parks are expected to boom and significantly draw large crowds when they open for business later this year.
With increasing demand for leisure tourism, the Leisure and Entertainment sector (L&E) represents an important segment of Dubai’s tourism industry, particularly the theme park which is seen as a high-growth industry due to its attractions.
Dubai presently enjoys little competition from within the region, which should place it on a strong footing in its efforts to increase visitor numbers from 14.2 million in 2015 to 20 million by 2020, in addition to the 25 million visitors anticipated for the upcoming World Expo 2020.
Dubai is also broadening its tourism offering to make it more attractive to various segments, especially the younger travelers, who may not have the means to spend on lodging but will be attracted to other experiences on offer, as informed by Sanjay Manchanda, CEO of real estate developer Nakheel.
Consultancy firm PwC, in its report published last year, concluded that Dubai and the broader UAE had the potential to compete with the likes of Orlando, Florida as a global theme park destination. The report also revealed that Dubai has recognized that it needs to continue investment and focus on the quality of attractions, as well as appealing to a diverse visitor base from all over the world.
According to PwC, Dubai has already commenced the necessary groundwork to support an expanding L&E segment, having channeled funds into development of transport links, accommodation, as well as the food and beverage sector, which are capable of attracting up to 45 million visitors by 2021.
The theme parks of Dubai Parks and Resorts, expected to be fully operational in October 2016, will be the region’s largest year-round theme park resort destination worth more than Dh10.5 billion (US$2.86 billion). A variety of attractions will be offered in Motiongate Dubai, a Hollywood movie-inspired theme park; Bollywood Parks Dubai, the first theme park based on the sights and sounds of Bollywood; Legoland Dubai and Legoland Water Park, the region’s first water park for families with children between the ages 2 to 12 years.
Dubai Parks and Resorts will feature more than 100 rides and attractions, complete with a resort hotel, eateries and retail outlets. The theme park, in its first full year of operations, is targeting 6.7 million ticketed visitors and US$650 million in revenue in 2017.
CEO of Dubai Parks and Resorts, Raed Kajoor Al Nuaimi, said, “Theme parks and entertainment destinations are integral to attracting more families to the region as part of the emirate’s strategic roadmap for the sector, Tourism Vision 2020.”
Other theme parks opening this year include the IMG Worlds of Adventure, owned by IMG Theme Park LLC, which will span over 1.5 million square feet, thus will make it the largest indoor theme park in the world. This theme park, like the Dubai Parks and Resorts, also has a strong media connection through partnerships with entertainment giants such as Marvel and Cartoon Network for a range of super heroes and animated characters that will be featured in the theme park.
Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, chairman of International Expo Consults (IEC), mentions that utilising themes from movie franchises will give Dubai’s new entertainment hub a useful ready-made connection with their client base. IEC estimates that Dubai’s theme park could generate approximately US$5billion in annual revenue by 2020.
Another development, Dubai Safari Park, a 119-ha zoo worth Dh150 million (US$40.8m), is also expected to open by mid-2016. Hussain Nasser Lootah, director-general of Dubai Municipality, informed the local press in mid-January this year that the zoo will accommodate close to 1000 animals, with more than 350 species of rare and endangered animals.
With Dubai’s strategic location and a lack of regional competition in the theme park segment, it thus gives the emirate an advantage above the rest in the region, according to Lennard Otto, CEO of IMG Worlds of Adventure.
He informed, “Until now, large-scale themed entertainment parks were only available in other parts of the world for those prepared to travel long distances.”
Dubai’s L&E industry growth should also further support a drive to improve global accessibility at the Dubai International Airport, now already the busiest airport in the world by international passenger numbers, largely due to the expansion of Emirates airlines.