Theme parks: The UAE's bid to become the entertainment capital of the world
Dubai this week launched the latest in a long line of theme park projects as the emirate aims to attract 20 million visitors a year
This week, Dubai's Al Ahli Holding Group announced plans to build the Fox-branded theme park and resort. It is the latest in a long line of theme parks and attractions set to be built in the emirate, part of its aim to attract 20 million visitors a year. We look at some of the plans announced, those under construction, parks already in place and some which have been rumoured or remain on the drawing board. With an opening date of 2020,\nAl Ahli Holding Group's Fox-branded complex is set to rival the Dubai Parks and Resorts also scheduled to launch operations next year. The four million square foot park will be based on various Fox-owned creations like Rio, Predator and The Simpsons. It will also include over 200 hotel rooms. Dubai-developer Meydan has joined forces with WL Hospitality Group to build the world's largest man-made adventure park, Wire world. The 25, 000 square foot park will be part of Meydan's record-breaking Meydan One Development project, which will house the world's tallest residential tower, longest indoor ski slope, and biggest gymnasium amongst other attractions. The Middle East's largest multi-themed leisure destination will entail three separate amusement parks - Legoland, Motiongate and Bollywood Parks - and one water park. Stretching over 25 million square feet on Sheikh Zayed Road, the Dubai Parks and Resorts development is said to have cost $2.8 billion (AED 10.5 billion). While the project recorded a $7.8 million (AED29 million) loss in this year's second quarter, it's sticking to its 2016 opening date. IMG Worlds of Adventure, the 1.5 million square foot leisure park by Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari (IMG) Group, is almost completed. Located in Dubailand, Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Road, the park will consist of four themed-zones including Marvel, Cartoon Network, Lost Valley - Dinosaur Adventure, and IMG Boulevard. It recently revealed a sneak peak of one of its Marvel-inspired rides, Avenger's: Battle of Ultron. The Dubailand project could be set for even more theme parks, according to the new group CEO of master developer Dubai Properties Group.\n“Dubailand is becoming the new Dubai. We still have the focus on building the theme parks and it is still in the plans. We have a specific team working on that,” Abdullatif AlMulla (above) said in a recent interview with Arabian Business. US-based theme park firm Sea World Entertainment announced last year plans to open a third branch of its aquatic leisure park in the Middle East, with strong suggestions that it will open in Dubai. While the company hasn't confirmed the agreement yet, it has been under heavy controversy for its alleged mistreatment of sea animals. In April this year, 10, 000 people signed a petition urging the Dubai government to axe its project plans. Universal Studios Dubailand theme park was one of the first casualties of the Dubai real estate collapse in 2008. While the project was put back on track in 2010, no construction works have been reported since late 2012. The project is a $2.2 billion (AED 8 billion) deal between Universal Studios and a subsidiary of Dubai Holdings, Tatweer. Abu Dhabi's Reem Mall is set to build the world's largest snow park. The 11,600 square metre attraction is part of the Reem Mall project, developed by Kuwait-based companies National Real Estate Company and United Projects for Aviation Services Company. Costing ($1 billion) AED3.7 billion, the mall is set to open in 2018. The first and only Ferrari-branded theme park is located on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island. Also the largest indoor theme park in the world, it cost $900 million (AED3.3 billion) and took only three years to be built. Aquaventure in Atlantis hotel, The Palm Jumeirah, was voted the fifth best water in the world by Trip Advisor. It houses the world's largest diameter water slide and is 17 hectares large itself. It includes a slide, The Tower of Neptune, which looks into the Shark Lagoon. Situated on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island, the Warner Bros theme park is set to launch in 2018, with work operations already in course since July this year. The Hollywood producer first signed the deal with UAE-based Aldar Properties and Abu Dhabi Media Company in 2007. The entertainment destination will entail a total of 19 rides, jointly-owned multiplex cinemas, and a hotel. Yas Island, home to the Formula One Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since 2009, currently has two theme park – Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld – but is planning at least two more.\n“We are always in talks for a third and fourth theme park,” Mohammed Al Mubarak (above), CEO of Aldar Properties, the developer of Yas Island, told Arabian Business in an interview.\n“The vision is to have four — two right now and two in the pipeline. For sure one will come before 2020,” he added. 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.\nLast year, reports filtered out of Egypt that Disney was eyeing a development in the country but there has been no official announcement.\nWalt Disney has been previously linked to the Dubailand development for its first theme park in the Middle East, but it did not materialise.\n“We continually look for opportunities to grow our business and as a part of that process, we have conversations with many different entities,” a Walt Disney Company spokesperson said told Arabian Business in 2011.\n“While Dubai is an attractive market, we currently have no plans for the region.” The $43.5 million (AED159.7 million) project, Dubai Frame, will be completed next month, according to the Dubai Municipality. The project, shaped like a window frame, is located near the Star Gate games and rides area of Zabeel Park. The project comprises a 150-metre-high, 93-metre-wide structure that is meant to resemble a huge picture frame representing Dubai landmarks like Emirates Towers and Burj Khalifa, both of which can be seen on one side of the frame. Hili Fun City was first created by His Highness Sheikh Tahnoon bin Muhammad Al Nahyan in 1985. It was then re-opened in 2009 after undergoing refurbishment and transformation. One of the UAE's first ever theme parks, it was once referred to as the "Disneyland of the GCC." It is located in the Garden City in Al Ain. Currently, it has 28 attractions, an amphitheatre, and a 3D Action Cinema. Located in Umm Al Quwain, Dreamland Aqua Park was the first water park in the region. Having opened in 1997, it underwent several refurbishment processes. However, it remains of the Middle East's favourite family-friendly entertainment parks. Sharjah's first water park opened early last year. Al Montazah, a 126,000 square metre destination, was developed by the Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) at a cost of $27.2 million (AED100 million). Al Montazah was built on a section of Al Jazeera Park. The rest of the park contains picnic areas, restaurants, cafes, a lake for boating, and a mosque. Iceland Water Park officially opened late on September 29, 2010 in Ras Al Khaimeh. The 110,000 square metre waterpark claims to be the largest in the Middle East, housing 17 rides. Among its many attractions, Bluewaters Island, located off the Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) coastline, ‘Bluewaters’ will feature a 210-meter Ferris wheel. The wheel is meant to offer users bird's eye views of Dubai’s coastline and landmarks - including the Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa. A piazza at the base of the wheel will serve as an entertainment zone and events venue. Bluewaters will entail hospitality, residential, and retail zones. Global Village is a seasonal outdoor theme park and cultural experience. It opens every year from November to April. This year will mark its 20th season. It consists of pavilions in which 75 countries are represented. Each country boasts cultural hospitality and retail zones. Voted the seventh best water park in the world by Trip Advisor, Wild Wadi is located in Jumeirah next to the Burj Al Arab. Developed by the Jumeirah Group, it is the first ISO certified water park. Ski Dubai, the region's first indoor ski resort, is 22,500 square meters large. A part of the Mall of the Emirates, the ski resort cost $400 million (AED 1.4 billion) to build. Opened in 2005, the resort has five slopes and is kept at a -1 degrees Celsius temperature. Yas Waterworld comprises of 43 water rides and is situated on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island. It was developed by Aldar Properties at a price of $164.4 million (AED604 million). It was also voted as the 14th best water park in the world by Trip Advisor. Dubai's Miracle Garden first opened its doors in 2013, where it showcased millions of diverse flowers shaped in different forms like hearts, stars, igloos, and an 18 meter Burj Khalifa tower built with flowers. Located on Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Road, the garden is the first of its kind in the Middle East. Dubai Safari, a zoo park, is set to open in Dubai in 2016. In April, the Dubai Municipality announced it is 30 percent complete. The zoo will cover 119 hectares of land. Situated next to the Dubai Miracle Garden, the Buttefly Garden in Dubai is the largest of its kind in the world. It covers 1,800 square metres and houses 15,000 butterfly species. Damac Properties recently revealed its collaboration with Paramount Hotels & Resorts on a Dubai-based project, Paramount Residences at the Paramount Tower Hotel & Residences. The project on Sheikh Zayed Road has begun its construction phase, and is scheduled for completion in 2019. Dubai will soon be home to a new themed resort, with speculation the project will revolve around the movie industry. Mohammed Khammas (above), CEO of Al Ahli Holding Group (AAHG), confirmed the Dubai conglomerate is currently working on plans for a themed resort project, with details due to be announced imminently.\n“You’re literally walking through a story, no matter what the intellectual property is, from before you enter lobby, all the way through,” Khammas said in an interview with Arabian Business.\nHowever, speculation is rife it will be focused on the movie and entertainment sectors as AAHG already has very strong links to Hollywood and the film business.