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Mon 11 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Blockbuster in the making?

Theme parks could rake in the cash provided there is the staff to run them.

Dubai will attract more than enough visits to warrant building more theme parks and attractions in the emirate, Dubailand's CEO has claimed.

"I would say Dubailand is going to be the main driver to attract the 15 million visitors to Dubai that is anticipated," Mohammed Al Habbai, who is also Dubailand developer Tatweer's vice president of developments, leisure and entertainment, told Leisure Manager in an exclusive interview.

"As of today, the average stay in Dubai is 2.5 days, but hopefully, once Dubailand and its theme park component is open, that will increase to 4.5 days.

He was speaking after Tatweer announced a partnership with US-based Dreamworks animation to create the world's first Dreamworks theme park, which will be based around characters from films such as Shrek and Bee Movie.

According to Al Habbai, the Dreamworks park will "complement" the Universal Studios theme park announced last May as part of the US $2.2 billion Universal City mixed-use project, even though it means there are now two movie-inspired attractions planned for Dubailand.

"It will attract kids and teenagers, so they will be targeted all over the world," he said.

The Dreamworks park would attract two million visitors within its first year of operation, while Universal's park would target five million, he added.

But Al Habbai did warn that the huge number of theme parks planned for the region meant owners and operators needed to focus on recruiting operational staff now.

Tatweer, for example, has already established its own operating company headed up by ex-Disney industry expert Christian Perdrier.

"We will run and operate most of our theme parks," said Al Habbai. "We will need not less than 25,000 to 30,000 staff for the first phase of Dubailand."

Universal City itself would require between 5000 and 7000 staff who would be recruited from "all over the world" in order to cater to the diverse needs of the many different nationalities the facility would attract.

"Our theme park will not be cut and paste, it will be enhanced for every single market," he said.

"Unlike the US theme parks, which cater to 80% residents, in Dubai it will be the other way around - 80% for tourists and 20% or even less for residents."

Al Habbai also revealed there could be yet more projects announced for Dubailand: "We hope there are more. I would say there will always be room".

The priority, however, was to develop the theme parks that have already been announced, he added.

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