Disney says ‘no plans’ to open theme park in Dubai

Leisure resort Dubailand is in talks with four unnamed developers for new entertainment deals
Disney was named as a potential partner for stalled resort Dubailand
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Mon 30 May 2011 04:47 PM

US
entertainment giant Walt Disney Company said it has no plans to open a resort
in the Middle East, but said Dubai was an “attractive” market for development.

The
company was mooted as a potential partner for stalled entertainment resort
Dubailand, which last week said it was in talks to agree four deals with
leisure firms by end-2011.

“We
continually look for opportunities to grow our business and as a part of that
process, we have conversations with many different entities,” a Walt Disney
Company spokesperson said.

“While
Dubai is an attractive market, we currently have no plans for the region.”

The UAE plans to attract 15 million tourists by 2020 under
efforts to diversify its petrodollar-driven economy. Abu Dhabi is spending
billions on visitor attractions such as the Yas and Saadiyat island
developments, while Dubai has favoured malls and leisure resorts.  

Originally designed to be twice the size of Walt Disney
World Resort, Dubailand boasted tie-ups with Universal Studios, US theme park
giant Six Flags and Legoland.

The $91bn project was put on hold in late 2008 after the onset
of the financial crisis, and is now expected to be scaled down in design to
meet new economic realities.

State-backed Dubai Properties Group (DPG), the developer
behind Dubailand, is “negotiating a couple of [major new deals] this year… So
we want at least two to four to be announced this year, as much as we can,” CEO
Khalid Al Malik told Arabian Business last week.

The president
of UAE conglomerate BinHendi Enterprises last week said Dubai needed an
entertainment resort on the size and scale of Disneyland if it is to establish
itself as a global tourism destination.

 “We
need an entertainment anchor for the family, something like Disney but not
Disney. If we have a project like this in Dubai, we have an anchor for the
whole of the world,” Mohi-Din BinHendi said. “There is a big gap between
Euro Disney and Tokyo Disney. There is a craving for an entertainment anchor
[in this region].”

Research
firm Business Monitor International on Saturday called for a massive downsizing
of Dubailand to fit in with the "harsh realities" of Dubai's battered
real estate sector.

“Serious
thought (and downsizing) will be needed if the project is to fit in with the
harsh realities of Dubai's subdued property market in 2011,” said the report.

 

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.