Is Dubai poised to take on Orlando?

Theme parks are going to be the next big thing to take Dubai by storm, says PwC
Is Dubai poised to take on Orlando?
By Nikhil Pereira
Wed 30 Sep 2015 04:49 PM

With three projects in the pipeline from Dubai Parks and another by IMG, theme parks are going to be the next big thing to take Dubai by storm.

“We have been here in the past,” said Philip Shepherd, partner, PwC Middle East Hospitality & Leisure. “In 2009 around 18 theme parks and attractions were being discussed, and rights were being negotiated. But none even took off the ground.”

Shepherd sights a massive difference this time around compared to the past failures, saying: “That will not repeat in Dubai again, simply because the parks are already in construction phase and set to open soon. Projects have been planned well and we can see a future for them. They are no longer just never-ending hoardings by the Sheikh Zayed Road.”

Shepherd believes that Dubai is in a good position to take on the world's most famous theme park destination, Orlando, which is home to around 17 theme parks of various shapes and sizes.

“Orlando welcomed 73 million visits in 2014 alone," said Shepherd. "But, more importantly, it generated $21 billion for the state. A large part of these numbers are down to its attractions – its theme parks.”

“People don’t go to Orlando to see the city, they go for the theme parks,” he added.

One of the benefits that Shepherd sees for Dubai as a theme park destination is how close it is to various parts of the world.

“Dubai is accessible to billions of citizens around the world. It takes just eight hours to fly here from distant places. Meanwhile, Orlando is quite a distant destination to get to.”

Shepherd further believes that the World Expo 2020 alone is not going to drive sustainable tourist numbers to the emirate -  it is down to the attractions that Dubai and the UAE can offer as whole, he said. 

He also predicts positive benefits for Dubai hotels once the theme parks are built, saying: “When tourists visit Dubai to experience its theme parks, the hospitality industry will be the direct beneficiary of it. The industries are closely tied together.”

“A projected 18 million visitors will visit Dubai’s theme parks by 2021, that’s not close to Orlando’s figures but Dubai will get there sooner than everybody thinks,” he concluded.

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