Dubai theme parks tipped to generate $1bn thrill

Six Dubai theme parks announced last month could between them attract 10 million visitors a year, each spending about $100 daily, according to research by a top leisure property firm.

Dubai's planned theme parks are expected to generate as much as US$1 billion (Dh3.67bn) a year, a top leisure property firm has predicted.

According to research from the Dubai-based niche leisure property agent Team Leisure, the six theme parks, which were all announced late last month, could between them attract 10 million visitors a year, each spending about $100 daily.

The theme parks were announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, late last month as part of two projects that formed the backbone of a series of development plans for Dubai.

Phil Taylor, the managing director of Team Leisure and former chief executive of Ski Dubai at Mall of the Emirates and whose background includes developing the London Eye, the Alton Towers resort in the United Kingdom, Port Aventura in Spain and Disneyland Paris, calculates that "at a conservative estimate" in the short term the larger theme parks are likely to attract about 2 million people a year. The smaller parks can attract between 1 million and 1.5 million, potentially reaching about 10 million visitors when the parks are completed.

Several ambitious theme parks planned for the vast Dubailand development on the outskirts of the city were shelved after running into funding problems even before the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. But rebounding confidence in the emirate's tourism and property markets is encouraging developers to take a fresh look at the market.

Universal Studios is earmarked for Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid City by Emaar and Dubai Holding, while Sheikh Mohammed's own development company Meraas plans to develop five theme parks in Jebel Ali.

Meraas' Dubai Adventure Studios fun park, plans for which were announced in December last year, will anchor the new destination and is expected to be completed by 2014. This will be followed by a theme park based around Bollywood movies, a park themed around water and marine life, a children's theme park and a "night safari" park themed around the adventures of the wild desert.

According to Team Leisure, the largest theme parks in Orlando Florida such as Disney World attract about 2 million visitors a year, while smaller parks such as the Wet 'n' Wild water park brings in 1 million to 1.5 million.

"Our research shows that at Disney World Florida the average spend per head is around US$90 per head. It is not unreasonable to assume that by the time the parks are complete the average spend on these parks will be around $100 per head," said Mr Taylor.

"At Disney World the published ticket price is $90 but the average ticket spend is usually about half that because people purchase multi-day passes and other discounts for children and so forth. However, we found that they then spend another $45 or so on food and beverages, bringing that average spend up again. I would expect the parks in Dubai to be similar."

Mr Taylor added those figures do not include revenue spent outside of the parks. According to Team Leisure, in Florida an average stay would be for two nights and three days. At an average daily rate this year of $224, according to Jones Lang LaSalle, and at an occupancy of two visitors per room, that could generate an extra $1.1bn a year.