Miral forecasts Yas Island visitor numbers rising 5% this year

Developer to decide on aerial cable car plan in July following feasibility study, says CEO

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 18 DECEMBER 2018. Miral CEO, Mohamed Al Zaabi, at Warner Bros. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: Dania Al Saadi. Section: Business.
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Miral Asset Management, the Abu Dhabi government-owned developer behind Yas Island’s main leisure attractions, forecasts 5 per cent annual growth in visitor numbers in 2019 as it expands its theme parks and markets them overseas.

"Bringing more international tourists to Abu Dhabi will be a game changer for us as it will grow our market share and help boost our visitor numbers," said Mohamed Al Zaabi, chief executive of Miral, told The National.

Miral recorded 28 million visits to Yas Island in 2018, up 3 per cent from 27 million in 2017, Mr Al Zaabi said, during the Arabian Travel Market exhibition in Dubai on Sunday. “Absolutely, we want to continue growing these numbers as we invest in new attractions at Yas Island.”

Miral was set up by Abu Dhabi government in 2011 to manage the entertainment components of the 25 million square foot Yas Island, alongside state-backed real estate developer Aldar, which oversees the island’s residential and retail strategy.

Miral already owns Yas Waterworld as well as Ferrari World and Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi theme parks.

The developer plans to open Clymb, an indoor skydiving attraction in early 2020, and Yas Bay, a waterfront leisure destination housing the 18,000-capacity Yas Arena exhibition centre, which is currently being built.

In addition, Miral plans to open the Middle East’s first SeaWorld marine life park in 2022. The value of attractions under construction sits at around Dh6.2 billion, according to Mr Zaabi, and about 40 per cent of Yas Island has been built to date.

While Yas Island’s theme parks currently attract a varying split of overseas to domestic visitors, Miral aims to capitalise on recent growth in international tourist numbers to Abu Dhabi to reach 10.27 million visitors in 2018, according to official statistics from Abu Dhabi's Department of Culture and Tourism in February.

The capital is investing in new cultural and entertainment offerings to boost its tourism sector as part of a push to diversify the economy and reduce dependence on oil revenues. In addition to Louvre Abu Dhabi, which opened last year, the emirate has also reopened its oldest building, the Qasr Al Hosn fort site, as a museum. India, China and the UK remained the top three source markets for tourists to Abu Dhabi in 2018.

As part of its expansion Miral wants to "physically and digitally" connect the entertainment components of Yas Island, for example through new online ticketing packages and innovative ways of transporting visitors, its chief executive told The National.

For the past two years, the company has been in talks to build an aerial cable car network to take visitors across the island to different attractions with minimal impact on the ground. It signed an agreement with California-based skyTran in 2016 to discuss the feasibility of building skyTrain's elevated, high-speed Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system at Yas Island.

Mr Al Zaabi said Miral will announce in July whether or not it will proceed with the plans.