Dubai: Raed Al Nuaimi knows a thing or two about raising expectations … and how to go about managing them. The CEO of Dubai Parks and Resorts, a division of Meraas Holding, is putting the blocks together for the city’s big push to be counted as a top draw destination for themed attractions and rides. And he has set the timeline for this — 2016 — when three sets of extensively themed offerings in Jebel Ali will be open to the public.
“This is about creating a destination that caters to all sorts of demographics or age groups, and not meant exclusively for kids,” said Al Nuaimi. “If that means having something in it for young families with kids or teens, we had to have it. The design and choice of attractions was to position the destination to an international standard and audience and not as a regional amusement park. We are quite clear about that demarcation, and why we went for international IPs (intellectual property) through tie-ins with DreamWorks, Sony or a Legoland.
“In 2006-07, there was a lot of talk about bringing theme parks to Dubai and which never happened. From that perspective, we are clear about the need to set goals that are achievable by a set date, and that’s going to be in 2016.”
To make certain that construction milestones will be met, the developer has got Samsung’s construction entity on board, while Hill International is handling project management services. “There’s activity taking place on-site and we are comfortable sharing key status updates,” said Al Nuaimi. “Those targets reached bring its own credibility to meeting the expectations we have set off.”
These are sprawling structures that are being built. For instance, the dedicated zone for features inspired by DreamWorks’ movies could conceivably accommodate up to five A380s (excluding the wing spans, of course …).
“No one can say that the characters from Shrek (from DreamWorks) only strike a chord with kids, if that were so, those movies wouldn’t have created a $1.4 billion (Dh5.1 billion) plus franchise,” said Al Nuaimi. “We will have attractions themed around the ‘zombieland’ and ‘underworld’ movies, and those are meant for a teen demographic.
“We wanted to move as far away from being a the typical family entertainment centre that you see in the region, where the kids are left to play and the rest of the family move to do their shopping. Instead, what we are doing is build for the entire family to come and spend time.”
And certainly not just the visitors from within the UAE. “When Dubai Parks and Resorts builds to its full capacity, we will be playing a key role in attracting the 20 million visitors by 2020 that is Dubai’s vision,” said Al Nuaimi.
But wouldn’t that require that it be a near year-long destination? “It’s always debatable whether Dubai’s climate allows outdoor activity for eight months or nine,” said Al Nuaimi. “We don’t want to create another shopping mall type of destination under a roof.
“Having said that, we have factored in for low seasonality at some point during a year, but most of the pathways between rides and attractions will be in shaded areas. The queuing lines for all of the attractions will be in air-conditioned areas. Also, the entire DreamWorks IP features will be fully indoors.”
The decision to build the destination around three key concepts was also a key decision. “There was no way we would have created 60 attractions over a greater area of land … all it would have done was make it look empty when it opens,” the CEO said. “These three theme parks are going to set the benchmark for the industry in this part of the world. What makes up the project now is the right mix and better tuned to meeting the visitor projections. ”