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Sun 10 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Park projects need execution

Vision for theme parks needs to be followed through, according to attractions industry experts.

The theme park, amusements and attractions industry in the Middle East needs to focus on the execution of the grand-scale developments planned for the region, according to global industry experts.

"We've got enough vision in this place to last us for decades and decades, what we need is execution."

"That's the problem right now, we need things built, we need things operating and we need people living on the parks being built and operating them," said Darrell Metzger, vice chair of the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA) and CEO of Ruwaad Destinations - which is responsible for creating the first Paramount Pictures theme park in the UAE.

Speaking at a panel session on the ‘State of the Industry' at the Tourist Development Projects and Investment Market (TDIM08), Metzger was accompanied by Bob Masterson, chair of Ripley's Entertainment and chair of IAAPA, and Keith James, president of Jack Rouse Associates and a former president of TEA, which was previously known as the Themed Entertainments Association.

Like Metzger, James is directly involved in the Middle East attractions industry.

Jack Rouse Associates is responsible for the design of dinosaur-themed Restless Planet Theme Park in Dubailand.

Work is underway on developing the park, however, James revealed that Restless Planet should have been opened a year ago.

"The attractions and experiences are all far out ahead of the infrastructure. The parks might be built - but you can't get to them, you can't flush the toilet, you can't get water" he said.

"The infrastructure has got to catch up. Even our project was stemmed to be opened a year ago. It's still fine and it's going to be great, the dinosaurs are in Japan," he added.

The problem is finding people suitably qualified to perform the range of jobs that are needed, he added.

"There's a shortage of people who know how to do this, whether it's construction, design and most importantly, operation," said James.

The solution would be for the major operators here and experienced international operators coming in to the region to set up "their own training programmes or educational programmes to train local staff and the expatriate staff that comes in", said Metzger.

"That's one of our missions," he added.

"What's important is that longer-term there is some knowledge transfer. It's not just bringing expatriates in to do the job, you've got to bring them in and set up training, so that the local market can do the job."

That helps the whole nation, it helps the people living here; it's the productive thing to do," said Metzger.

This process is already beginning in the region.

Tatweer, developer of Dubailand, has set up its own operating company.

CEO Mohammed Al Habbai added that Tatweer is also more experienced as a result of its partnerships with operators such as Universal Studios.

A full round-up on the issues raised at TDIM08 will be in March Leisure Manager.

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