Theme park pulling power - curtailing the summer exodus

Gemma Greenwood

Summer in the UAE is traditionally a time when visitor numbers drop off and both Emirati and ex-pat families flee the high temperatures to seek cooler climes.

Although destinations such as Dubai claim they have started to stave off the summer slump in recent years, with hotels offering attractive deals to clients in key international source markets, particularly Europe, and initiatives such as Dubai Summer Surprises proving a draw card to Gulf visitors, there is still no doubt that June to August remains off-peak.

Dubai and to some extent, Abu Dhabi, have identified visiting families as the lynchpin of their tourism strategy success going forward.

The foundations for this have already been very firmly set, with a medley of world-class attractions not only enticing families from around the world to visit the UAE, but providing entertainment for Emirati and ex-pat children too.

From mega waterparks, zoos, and parks, to indoor entertainment offerings such as Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and KidZania, the range of family attractions available in the UAE has vastly improved over the past few years.

But in order to ramp up the pulling power, not only boosting visitor numbers to the UAE in the summer, but encouraging residing families to hang around a little longer rather than head overseas en masse, more theme parks are required.

If you have children, you will understand where I am coming from. A theme park provides a feel-good factor like no other and is one of the most sought-after family experiences on the planet.

How do I know? Well, I am one of the aforementioned fleeing ex-pats, currently ‘holidaying’ with the kids at nanny and granddad’s house back in my home country, the UK.

We’ve been on many excursions over the past month, with trips to parks and outdoor play areas undoubtedly providing the breath of fresh air we need at this time of year, but nothing has brought such a broad smile to my children’s faces as a visit to a theme park.

I have taken my daughter to Disneyland Paris and both of my children to Legoland in Windsor and let me tell you, nothing beats the squeals of delight and beaming grins you witness when you are exploring new rides, meeting movie characters and discovering surprises around every corner.

And it’s not just the kids who are over-the-moon; the adults have just as much fun, if not more, sharing the feeling of euphoria and excitement with their children and watching their faces light up.

In fact parents will move heaven and earth to get their kids to a theme park, enduring heavy traffic, hours on a train and long queues, come rain or shine – because it’s worth it.

For this reason, when the UAE builds more high-quality theme parks, it will guarantee a huge surge in visitors, even in the hotter summer months.

But these theme parks must compare to the world’s greatest. They must provide an experience like no other, which let’s face it, is already a hallmark of Dubai and Abu Dhabi as firmly established entertainment hubs.

Pipelined theme parks for Dubai include IMG Worlds of Adventure, featuring the Marvel Universe, the Cartoon Network Zone and several additional entertainment zones, located in Dubailand, which is due to open this year, while Universal Studios will be a highlight at Mohammed Bin Rashid City, set for completion in the 2020s.

I would argue there is room for more, particularly if the visitor numbers are to hit the ambitious levels set out in Dubai’s tourism strategy.

Imagine a Disneyland Dubai? It happened in Paris and Hong Kong, so why not the UAE?

Mickey Magic means money – establish yourself as a Disney destination and there is no competition.

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