By Raed Kajour Al Nuaimi
There is huge untapped potential in Dubai’s theme park and entertainment sector – much of which is set to be realised this year.
This is set to be an exciting and pivotal year for the theme park and entertainment industry in the region, as a number of different projects come to life that will cement the UAE’s reputation as a global theme park destination.
There is currently a real buoyancy and confidence that the burgeoning theme parks industry will add value and create fantastic opportunities here in the region in many different ways – not just in boosting tourism but also in generating revenue and creating strong local employment offerings.
The Tourism Vision 2020, which was set out by Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, is a blueprint for Dubai to double its annual visitor numbers from 10 million in 2012 to 20 million in 2020, and increase the economic contribution of the tourism sector. Positioning Dubai as a global entertainment destination and leading family resort is a core part of this vision. The opening of several new theme parks and family-entertainment sites such as Dubai Parks and Resorts, which opens in October 2016, will create more reasons to visit the UAE and will therefore play a key role in helping reach these targets.
A recent study by Euromonitor International suggested that theme park revenues for the UAE would reach $837m in 2019 – a significant figure. Over two-thirds of the global population live within an eight-hour flight of Dubai and we also know that record numbers of passengers are passing through Dubai International Airport, with passenger numbers expected to reach 90 million in 2018, so there is so much potential still untapped. Last autumn the consultancy firm PwC said the UAE’s location and hotels make it well-placed to compete with other popular theme park destinations, such as Orlando, and that the UAE could see over 18 million visits to theme parks by 2021. This is in line with our own predictions - Dubai Parks and Resorts is expecting 6.7 million ticketed visits in 2017, our first full year of operation, and we have a projected revenue of $650m. It is this belief that the UAE can become the ultimate destination for families, thrill-seekers and fun-hunters that has supported Dubai Parks and Resorts as we aim to achieve something never done before - open three theme parks on one site simultaneously.
Dubai Parks and Resorts will be the region’s largest year-round, multi-themed leisure and entertainment destination with over 100 rides and attractions and therefore we aim to take the lead and set high standards in the development of the theme park sector in the UAE and the Middle East at large. It is also important to note that the industry must not only seek to attract tourists but also local residents too – and be seen as a positive addition to the region.
One of the strongest benefits is that the boom in this industry will create a whole new employment stream. I can only give figures for Dubai Parks and Resorts, but our extensive Emiratisation programme, is set to hire more than 1,000 UAE nationals in the next 12 months to complement the Dubai Plan 2021 and the seven-year National Agenda to promote Emiratisation and empower national talent. We have so far shortlisted over 200 Emiratis for our Forsati programme - a development programme for UAE nationals of high school education or below and hired 30 Emiratis for our Helmi programme, which was offered to those under 25 with a grade point average of 3.5 or more. Of the 30 hired for Helmi, 10 received a full scholarship to the University of Central Florida in Orlando, US, and will come back to take on theme park management roles. In addition to our Emiratisation programme we currently have 34 contractors employing over 11,000 people on site to get us ready for our grand opening and when fully operational we will generate over 5,000 jobs across the sector. Based on these numbers and the other theme parks being built, you can see how positive the industry is for the area.
So 2016 will be an exciting year for the many employees, the industry and, personally, for myself, as it is a pleasure and a privilege to have a leading role in an industry that brings loved ones together for fun, laughter and adventures.
We are looking forward to bringing something truly amazing to life here in Dubai this year.
Raed Kajour Al Nuaimi, CEO of Dubai Parks and Resorts.