MAF eyes leisure launches in Egypt, Jordan, UAE

Dubai firm says in-mall attractions are cost-effective alternative to standalone theme parks
MAF eyes leisure launches in Egypt, Jordan, UAE
MAF is the company behind three of Dubais largest malls, including Mall of the Emirates
By Elizabeth Broomhall
Sun 29 May 2011 09:36 AM

UAE conglomerate Majid Al Futtaim Holding plans to launch
three entertainment complexes in Egypt, Jordan and Fujairah, the CEO of the
firm’s leisure arm said.

The company behind Ski Dubai and Bahrain’s first in-mall
water park will build an indoor ski-slope in Cairo’s Mall of Egypt, and ‘Magic
Planet’ entertainment attractions in Fujairah City Centre Mall and Taj Mall in
Jordan.

“The year 2010 was very much about us reassessing exactly
what the business was all about, allowing us in 2011 to get back on the road
and get into full expansion mode,” said Arnaud Palu, CEO, MAF Leisure and
Entertainment.

“The Jordan project is still in the negotiation stage,
but is a potential joint venture with Alshaya to build a Magic Planet there.”

The complex would be fairly small in comparison to Dubai,
he said, at just 1,500m sq compared with the 9,000m sq facility in Mall of the
Emirates. 

“In Egypt we are developing a snow slope, but also much
smaller than Ski Dubai. The market over there doesn’t really require a
full-fledged indoor snow operation like the one in Dubai,” he said. “We’re
haven’t decided on a name yet, but we’re considering Ski Egypt.”

The CEO also hinted at plans to refurbish Ski Dubai.

“We are also planning some really, really cool stuff with
Ski Dubai, I’m talking about being really innovative, and putting Ski Dubai back
on the map.”

A subsidiary of the UAE’s largest mall developer, MAF
Leisure and Entertainment operates ten Magic Planets across the region,
including two in Egypt and one in Kuwait.

Other primarily in-mall entertainment facilities include
iFLY, Playnation, Soccer Circus Dubai and French ‘edutainment’ centre Little
Explorers.

A report by consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle last month
said malls in the Middle East must bolster their entertainment appeal or risk
closure, warning that retail must be mixed with leisure outlets.

In-mall attractions are a growing, cost-effective
alternative to standalone theme parks with a higher chance of survival, Palu
said.

“The residential offer in Dubai is very strong, the
retail offer is very strong, but there is an angle missing in the triangle,
which is the reason for people to come here. The beach is one thing, but fun is
the third corner,” he said.

“The danger is that developers will repeat the same
[attractions]. For example we are seeing a lot of water parks opening up in the
UAE, which begs the question, how many can be sustained in this part of the
world? The real difference that leisure brings is based on the level of
innovation.”

Outside of the Gulf, MAF is eyeing new developments in
Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan and is mulling a move into managing
entertainment complexes.

The firm is currently in talks with developers in Nigeria
and India to act as an operator, Palu said.

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