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Thu 26 May 2011 11:49 AM

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Dubai ‘needs a Disneyland’ to boost tourism

Retail tycoon BinHendi says had paired up with George Lucas for theme park before credit crunch

Dubai ‘needs a Disneyland’ to boost tourism
The sprawling entertainment resort Dubailand was placed on hold in 2008 after the credit crunch
Dubai ‘needs a Disneyland’ to boost tourism
Disneyland Paris
Dubai ‘needs a Disneyland’ to boost tourism
Disneyland at night

Dubai needs an entertainment resort on the size and scale of
Disneyland if it is to attract a larger slice of the global tourism pie, the
president of UAE’s BinHendi Enterprises said.

The UAE’s trade and tourism hub must create an anchor
attraction to push it into the league of destinations such as the US and UK, and
mark Dubai as the region’s top holiday spot, Mohi-Din BinHendi said.  

“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,” he told Arabian Business. “There is a big
gap between Euro Disney and Tokyo Disney. There is a craving for an
entertainment anchor [in this region].”

The UAE plans to attract 15 million tourists by 2020 under
efforts to diversify its petrodollar-driven economy. The capital is spending
billions on visitor attractions such as the Yas and Saadiyat island
developments, in a bid to establish itself as a holiday destination.

BinHendi said he was in talks to create a theme park project
with Star Wars director George Lucas and US engineers Bechtel before the global
financial crisis. The resort, ‘The Magic World of Dubai’, was to be linked by monorail
to Dubai Airport but the plans were scrapped when the financial backers pulled
out after the credit crunch, BinHendi said.

A key barrier to Dubai creating its own family entertainment
resort would be a lack of capital, he said. “Today we attract a lot of tourists
who come here to enjoy the sun, the beaches and the hotels, but we are not an
exotic destination. We are not like Fiji or Hawaii. This is what is missing in
Dubai. If I had the finance I would do this project as one of the leading
projects in this part of the world,” he said.

In Dubai, the sprawling entertainment resort Dubailand was
placed on hold in 2008 after the credit crunch saw the emirate’s real estate market
collapse.

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

The developer behind the AED335bn project said this week
that it is in talks to agree four major deals by the end of the year with
entertainment partners.

“Dubailand is currently in the process of evaluating new
projects,” said Khalid Al Malik, CEO of Dubai Properties Group (DPG).

DPG 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. They
are relating to the kind of designs we had for Dubailand at the start; it could
be tourism, themes of the kind of entertainment stuff we want.”

Jordan’s Rubicon Group last week announced it had signed a
deal with US media giants Paramount and CBS to launch a $1bn theme park and
resort in the coastal town of Aqaba.

The 184-acre Red Sea Astrarium will include a Star
Trek-themed attraction inspired by the 2009 film Star Trek, which is being
developed by Paramount Recreation.

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Andy 8 years ago

Then they can charge $100 for each person to enter and $200-300 for hotels near Disneyland lol.. While I would love to see Dubai offer a Disneyland they will need to offer one that is affordable to those that they wish to attract from the region or it will not work out as Disneyland is for kids and family members so it should be something everyone including the poor can afford and not just something for the rich.

Red Snappa 8 years ago

Yes a Middle East and North Africa equivalent of Disneyland might be a good idea. But perhaps two are needed one in either Egypt or Tunisia that the American co's will build directly as an extension of Europe and the other that serves the GCC. Otherwise the visa scenario would truly become a major headache from a security perspective

Perhaps a Disneyland equivalent located in Dubai, however more likely Abu Dhabi which truly has the underwriting revenues and is not encumbered by a legacy of significant debt. In other words a theme park which does not require a mass of villas, townhouses to be built and bought in order to fund it. That model no longer works and I also believe that it would be a grave mistake for Dubailand to be revived based on that model. There are surely lessons to be learned from the last 2.5 years?

unentertained 8 years ago

Bin Hendi and Red Snappa are right. Having NEW tourist attractions helps immensly in attracting more tourists.

And there need to be MANY lessons be learned from the bungeled way Dubailand has been handeled up so far.

villas are NOT tourist attractions, appartment towers are NOT tourist attractions, another 10 shopping malls are NOT (new) tourist attractions

Apart from the racetrack and for a view weeks per year global village Dubailand holds no attraction whatshowever.

Zoning needs to be frankly much more brutal!
Otherwise every new project will promise attractions and build villas.

Hush 8 years ago

There is no doubt, a theme park with the capacity to entice millions of people to travel to the UAE is the future.
The product must be attractive and within the reach of the masses.
While Yas Island is an unbelievable product, it really only pulls in foreigners for one week in the year and otherwise has to rely on UAE residents for the rest of the year.
Dubai has always planned decades in advance, if you look at Emirates Airlines, Jebel Ali Port, Downtown Burj Khalifa, the government has always been forward thinking.
I have no doubt, we will have a theme park to rival the worlds best within 5-6 years.

Alex 8 years ago

I always thought that the DubaiLand concept (abet not its incredibly size) was one of the only truly sensible Dubai-Boom projects.

I hope that this resurrection gets off the ground but I also really hope that they learn a lesson and do it on a smaller-scale initially.

Doug 8 years ago

No, flights and accommodation in Dubai need to be priced at a level commensurate with what can be provided to tourists. You cannot expect people to pay hundreds of dollars a night to visit a few overpriced shopping malls, a poorly provisioned beach and a rickety boat crossing of the creek.

Dubai also needs to seriously think about its image. While Dubai's traditions and customs should be protected, the authorities seem unduly vigorous in prosecuting tourists. We can whinge about the rights and wrongs of this all day, but the fact is that something like Disneyland would obviously be mostly aimed at Westerners and Russians. They all think they're going to be arrested in Dubai. So if they aren't going to come here, who will?

Dubai will need to resolve this issues first, if it wants to seriously consider major theme park projects.

Matt 8 years ago

You want tourists to come, build casino's, look at the Vegas model, casino's in the desert with cheap room rates, look at their turnovers, in the billions.

Steven 8 years ago

I find this very amusing!As an Abu Dhabi 'boy' I always thought Dubai WAS a DISNEYLAND - it's certainly not a 'real' place.

Ali Hassan 8 years ago

"A theme park to rival the worlds best within 5-6 years"?? You've gotta be kidding, right? Where will the money come from? The financing for such a large enterprise can only come from international banks -- none of these banks are, at present, even remotely interested in dealing with Dubai. I should know, I am in Risk Management at a large US bank.

Abdul M. Ismail 8 years ago

This Disneyland Dubai idea is the worst since, the World Islands!

Sure, a Disneyland in the GCC will bring in regional tourists but a nation (or in this case, an Emirate) cannot on run on tourism alone.

Sooner or later, all these new buildings and infrastructure will have to be refurbished - and who's going to pay for this? As soon as Dubai slaps on an income tax and/or corporate tax - which is the only way they can generate sufficient revenue, people will leave.