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Enthusiasm to develop Dubai’s tourism infrastructure is gaining momentum in 2016, with a specific focus on family-oriented theme parks and cultural attractions. The leisure and entertainment (L&E) industry will play an important role in attracting more tourists to the Emirate and reaching Dubai’s target of 20 million visitors per year by 2020.

According to annual figures released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism), the Emirate attracted over 14.2 million visitors in 2015, a 7.5% increase from the previous year. The latest figure puts Dubai in fourth position for the most visited city in the world. Dubai’s diversified market strategy and unified industry responsiveness have contributed to the sector’s strong performance. GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar, and Kuwait delivered the highest share of visitor volumes last year, while the UK remained one of the top three source countries, accounting for 1.2 million visitors, an increase of 11% from the previous year.

Dubai has recognized the need to deliver segment-specific offerings in order to balance its risk exposure and appeal to a greater diversity of markets around the world. The Emirate is aiming to become a leading L&E destination by opening new attractions such as Dubai Parks and Resorts, IMG Worlds of Adventure, and Dubai Safari Park.

Dubai Parks and Resorts will be the largest multi-themed leisure and entertainment destination in the Middle East. The AED10.5 billion project is set to open in October 2016 on a 25 million sqft plot of land between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. The development is divided into three theme parks: Motiongate Dubai, with 27 Hollywood-inspired attractions, of which 21 will be indoor; Bollywood Parks Dubai; and Legoland Dubai, the first of its kind in the Middle East in addition to Legoland Water Park. The project will provide numerous opportunities for the hospitality sector in a 220,000 sqft district of leasable dining, entertainment, and retail space. The district, called Riverland Dubai, will connect all three theme parks. Marriott Group is already on-board through the Lapita Hotel, a Polynesian-themed hotel. Dubai Parks and Resorts expect 6.7 million ticketed visits during its first operational year, hoping to reach $650 million in revenue.

Other theme parks set to open in 2016 include Dubai Safari Park, a AED150 million development housing approximately 1,000 animals in a 119ha zoo. The zoo will be divided into themed areas such as Asian, African and Arabian villages, and will also include a research center for biological diversity. 350 rare species of animals will be showcased at the zoo, and the first selection of animals arrived in March 2016. Dubai Safari Park will also house golf courses, a butterfly garden, and entertainment areas. The park is solar-powered and will depend on a hybrid operational system to run the irrigation network as well as water disposal and recycling, making it one of the most environmentally-friendly projects under construction by Dubai municipality.
IMG World of Adventure, the world’s largest indoor theme park, will utilize themes from movie franchises to divide its 1.5 million sqft into five zones; MARVEL, Lost Valley, Cartoon Network, Dinosaur Adventure, and IMG Boulevard. The park, which is located in Dubailand, is expected to open in the 1H2016.

According to International Expo Consults (IEC), Dubai’s theme parks are expected to generate close to $5 billion in revenue by 2020. Moreover, PwC predicts that UAE attractions can achieve 18 million theme park visits by 2021. With the opening of so many leisure attractions during the same year, and many more still in the pipeline, Dubai’s L&E industry is set to double over the next six years.

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