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Mon 11 Feb 2008 04:00 AM

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Will plans come to fruition?

The recent Tourism Development Projects and Investment Market (TDIM08) showcased the major leisure projects planned for the region.

The recent Tourism Development Projects and Investment Market (TDIM08) showcased the major leisure projects planned for the region, from the Universal Studios and Dreamworks theme parks in Dubailand - the latter of which was announced at the show for the first time - to Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort in Abu Dhabi and Falcon City of Wonders, also a part of Dubailand.

The huge scale models of each project were mind-blowing and the developers behind each project had clearly not cut corners on their stands.

Each was quite obviously passionate about their plans and keen to display their designs.

While fascinating for the layman, this also revealed a major issue facing the leisure industry.

The show demonstrated, quite conspicuously, that the majority of these projects are still very much in the planning stages.

It was quite a challenge to find someone to speak to about each development, and this was not because I was a journalist.

My keen observations of 'wow, when will this be ready?' were too often met with disappointing replies of 'it's too early to say' or 'we're just in the design stages at the moment'.

This raised the inevitable question, which was posed at TDIM by the president of the International Association of Attractions, Parks and Amusements (IAAPA) Charlie Bray during a panel session on the State of the Industry. How many of these leisure developments are realistic?

This was an issue also raised by Donald Trump Jr in an interview published in Arabian Property magazine last month.

Trump Jr said some of the plans were incredible in theory, but would not work out on paper.

"There are clearly some [projects] that are just in my opinion out of this world and that can't possibly ever happen," he said.

Darrell Metzger, CEO Ruwaad Destinations, reflected on Trump Jnr's comments at TDIM.

"This morning the paper had more than US $500 billion worth of leisure projects that are going to be in this region. $500 billion.

"Now a nice Universal Studios theme park costs a billion dollars. What are you going to do with five billion of those in this region? I mean, that's the scale that we're looking at," he told delegates.

The sheer scale, however, is a result of the entrepreneurial nature of those leading the leisure industry - something that sets the sector apart.

As Bob Masterson, chair of Ripley's Entertainment and chair of IAAPA concluded: I think a lot of that is a natural part of the process, any time some pioneering work is done, a lot of the pioneers set out and a lot don't make it across the ocean."

One thing is for sure - it's going to be very interesting to watch over the next few years.

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