By Carlin Gerbich
With visitor numbers expected to more than double for Expo 2020, expert says large family attractions will help to keep attracting them beyond the event
Dubai needs a Disneyland if it’s to attract regional visitors in great numbers beyond the Expo 2020, according to a senior architect based in the emirate.
Speaking during the Construction Week UAE Infrastructure Summit 2015, Issam Ezzedine, principal design architect at National Engineering Bureau, said that if Dubai was to double its hotel room count with up to 40,000 extra hotel rooms built by 2020, then those hotel rooms would need to remain busy once the six month Expo event closed.
“In parallel to focusing on the 2020 event, we need to think about what comes after. If you’re going to have 50,000 keys, what’s going to happen straight after that? I expect that [popularity] will go up to 2022 because of the World Cup in Qatar, but what comes after that? There is no plan [at present] by the government or decision makers about that, and that could create a large gap. I think the developers and the operators could stand to lose a lot of money,” he said.
“If you’re going to have all these extra hotel rooms and do not build new leisure facilities, for families, those hotels will be isolated. Why don’t we think of Disneyland in Dubai? Dubai is a strong worldwide destination now. There is a Disneyland in the US, in Paris – why don’t we have one in Dubai? Disneyland is one of those developments that brings in huge money regionally, and maybe this is something we need to be considering. Once 2020 is over, we have an opportunity,” he said.
There are Disney theme parks in Anaheim and Orlando in the US, Paris, Hong Kong, Tokyo and Shanghai; a resort and spa in Hawaii, and a cruise line that runs four ships out of Port Canaveral in Florida.
Last year, reports filtered out of Egypt that Disney was eyeing a development in the country but there has been no official announcement.
Dubai has a number of other theme parks currently under development, including the IMG Worlds of Adventure, and the enormous mega project by Dubai Parks and Resorts that will include motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai, and LEGOLAND Dubai along with Riverpark - a grand entrance plaza - and Lapita, a family themed hotel will also provide 5,000 jobs across the sector.
The mega project, on which construction has started, is on track to launch in October 2016.
Dubai expects to welcome 25 million visitors in 2020, most of them to visit the Expo 2020 site. Currently, Dubai brings in 11.5 million tourists and visitors a year - less than half that expected in five years' time.
Ezzedine said that hotel owners and operators also needed to think of ways to attract and retain visitor numbers with unique ideas – and that was a challenge that faced not only clients, but everyone in the process.
“If they don’t come up with new ideas, new facilities, they will not compete. It’s something we see, where even the architects and designers are asked to come up with ideas to make this a unique hospitality experience.
“Maybe there is a new kind of medical hospitality building where people bring their patients to the hospital, then they will stay in the hotel; beauty clinics connected with hotels; inspiration space inside the hotel or resort - all these things. If you are not able to come up with a new ideas, then I think you’re going to suffer.”