The latest season of Dubai's Global Village had its soft launch on Sunday, and it's set to be a big one for the attraction. The multicultural theme park marks its 25th year, and plenty of activities have been in the pipeline to mark this silver jubilee.
However, as Global Village's chief executive Bader Anwahi points out, 2020 is no ordinary year. Back in March, its 24th season was cut short by the coronavirus pandemic. And as it reopens, the attraction – which has an average footfall of 42,000 guests per day – has had to adapt to the extraordinary circumstances.
Anwahi said the team had been working around the clock over the past few months to ensure that this season impresses guests. “I am so proud of how our team has injected elements of fun into the exceptional precautionary measures that we have implemented. This is an extraordinary year, and we are confident that our improved customer experience together with the many exciting new offerings will make it one to remember.”
The safety measures start at the entrance with temperature checks and thermal scanners. Face masks are mandatory, social-distancing reminders have been positioned at checkpoints and more than 600 hand-sanitising stations have been placed throughout the area. At the children’s theatre, complimentary face masks will be handed out, while social-distancing teddy bears have been placed on alternate seats in place of audience members.
There has also been some creative incorporation of face masks among performers. From clowns to superheroes, the masks have been blended naturally into costumes, while temperature checkers at the entrance sport face shields.
Organisers have also subtly tweaked the structure of the attraction's performances to incorporate social-distancing measures. Seating has been installed in front of the main stage area to prevent overcrowding. The 26 pavilions – with the new additions of Russia, Cambodia and Vietnam – have designated entry and exit points, with most stating a maximum capacity at the entrance. Within, the kiosks and vendors have been spaced out so each pavilion feels less crowded. Tables at dining areas have also been set two metres apart, and guests will be discouraged from eating food as they move around the park.
Perhaps the most significant change are the two apps guests now need to access Global Village. There an eponymous one for information and ticket purchases, while another, GVPay by Noqodi, will allow guests to make cashless payments across vendors and outlets.
After setting up the app – a five-minute process that can be done at home – visitors can explore most of the attractions without their wallets. Haggling and purchasing products – be it saffron from Iran or honey from Yemen – is still just as satisfying.
This year features the return of Global Village trademark attractions – there will be fireworks every Thursday and Friday, and on special occasions such as New Year's Eve. Ripley's Believe It or Not "Odditorium", which launched last year, is back, and with 100 new attractions to boot. And Carnaval, the outdoor theme park area, will home exciting rides including the new Manila Mayhem that rotates at 20 revolutions per minute, seven metres above ground.
While the soft opening took place on Sunday, October 25, the grand opening will be on Friday, October 30, with a virtual rock concert scheduled in the evening. Helmed by Fabio Zaffagnini, the concert by Rockin’ 1000 will unite audio and video submissions from about 2,500 artists from 100 countries, and be streamed across the Global Village main stage and social media platforms, along with fireworks at 9pm.
Changes aside, Global Village maintains its buzz. The miniature Eiffel Tower and Burj Khalifa are right where you left them; the smell of freshly cooked corn and other treats still hang heavy in the air; and the lights are just as bright.
Global Village is open daily; Saturday, 2pm-11pm; Sunday-Wednesday, 4pm-midnight; Thursday, Friday and public holidays, 4pm-1am; Monday is reserved as a family day except for public holidays; Dh15 per person; www.globalvillage.ae