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.