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Mon 21 Apr 2008 10:48 AM

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Dealing with delays

With some projects aiming for specific opening dates, the leisure industry must work as a team to avoid more delays.

Yet again the region's attractions industry has made the headlines this month.

Firstly, Tatweer invited around 30 of Dubai's media on a tour of Dubailand. Featured projects included MotorCity, Dubai Sports City, Universal Studios, City of Arabia and Dubai Outlet Mall.

Dubai Autodrome, The Els Club and the Outlet Mall aside, there was little to see in terms of actual development. Plus, poor organisation and a brewing sandstorm - which felt uncomfortable for people standing on Ernie Els' golf course and would be even more unpleasant for someone hanging upside down on a roller coaster - made the tour both disappointing and somewhat arduous.

However, despite a lack of visible signs that the various attractions and hotels are moving forward in terms of construction, Dubailand CEO Mohammed Al Habbai said that the destination had not suffered any major setbacks.

"Dubailand is comparable with Singapore in size and, of course, a project of this scope will present challenges, but six projects are already up and running," he said.

Al Habbai also dismissed rumours of infrastructural problems and said Tatweer was not worried about traffic flow.

Although it is still difficult to imagine that many of Dubailand's 27 projects will be open to visitors by the phase one launch date of December 10, 2010, new deals with international entertainment companies - such as Six Flags and Hit Entertainment - suggest that there is growing excitement surrounding the project and a great deal of faith in the master developer behind it.

The most recent deal is the develop Dubai's first super hero theme park, which has been moved to Dubailand and taken over by Tatweer.

Marvel originally signed a deal with UAE-based Al Ahli Group last year to set up a theme park within the group's Al Ahli Park development, which was expected to be part of an entertainment hub separate to Dubailand.

David Maisel, executive vice president of Marvel Entertainment, described the move to Tatweer as "strategic", reflecting the fact that the majority of attractions operators coming to Dubai want to be within the Dubailand destination.

With the plans for Dubai's leisure destination becoming increasingly exciting, and construction reportedly unhindered, one of the next steps is for the developers to partner with the right suppliers.

The Dubai, Entertainment, Amusement and Leisure show (DEAL) currently running at the World Trade Centre could not be more relevant in the current climate.

However, although it is almost twice as big as last year, with more interactive stands and an education programme from the World Waterpark Association, there was a word of caution regarding the major developments in the region from some of the show's exhibitors.

Despite several of these companies being signed up to big projects in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, frustrations were voiced about delays at these developments and the impact on their business.

The leisure industry is one driven largely by the innovative creations of those that supply it. Postponing commitments and playing with people's time - and money - could lead to shaky relationships.

There are very few companies worldwide with the skill, experience and talent required to create some of the thrills that have been planned on paper. While the projects are prestigious and a great addition to these companies CVs, developers and operators must not be complacent about their passion.

With some projects aiming for specific opening dates - the Formula One track and Ferrari theme park at Abu Dhabi's Yas Island for example - the industry must work as a team and do everything possible to avoid more delays.

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