Fun times: Dubai aims to rival Orlando as entertainment and leisure hub

Published June 9th, 2015 - 01:00 GMT

PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has forecast that the UAE’s leisure and entertainment (L&E) market potential will reach 45 million visitors by 2021, with international tourists accounting for 30 million, while residents and friends and relatives of residents total a further 15 million.

PwC also believes that theme parks in the pipeline will attract 18 million visits. According to PwC’s report ‘UAE’s transformation into a world-class leisure and entertainment destination’, the country can become a world-class leisure and entertainment destination to rival cities such as Orlando, Singapore and Hong Kong if it takes a holistic approach to exploit its geographical location, high quality attractions and investment in infrastructure.

“The UAE has come a long way to realise its global ambition of becoming a leisure and entertainment hub, and rival Orlando, which is the current market leader. The country has recognised that it needs to continue investment and focus on the quality of attractions, as well as appeal to a diverse visitor base from across the world. Coordination between the emirates is essential for success,” said Philip Shepherd, partner, PwC Middle East Hospitality and Leisure Leader.

The report looks at the current tourism enablers that have provided a strong foundation for the UAE to become a global hub for tourism, as well as the key considerations for the country to continue growing to become a world-class leisure and entertainment destination.

The UAE rivals Orlando in terms of scale, transport links and food and beverage facilities. Furthermore, the country’s central location — within eight hours of six billion people — provides an advantage to further transform the industry.

The UAE is adding a further five full-scale theme parks in the next three years. “The key to a consistently successful destination is enabling visitors to enjoy multiple attractions. Offering multi-park tickets, all inclusive packages and coordinated visitor management from booking through inbound and local transportation, hotels and attractions will be crucial,” added Shepherd.

Theme parks will need to deal with the diverse cultures of visitors from the Middle East, Asia and Europe, in addition to overcoming climate challenges, and providing the right destination management institutions to provide an effortless experience for visitors, and compete with destinations such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

The UAE already rivals Orlando in the scale of transport links, lodging and food and beverage sectors and its central global location. For instance, Dubai International Airport surpassed Heathrow in 2014 to become the world’s busiest airport, with 70 million international passengers per year. In comparison, Orlando airport sees 36 million passengers annually, with many visitors driving from nearby states.

The UAE’s supply of hotel rooms is set to double by 2020, from approximately 100,000 rooms in 2014. In contrast, Orlando hotel room supply was approximately 120,000 in 2014. The foodservice sector is worth approximately five billion in the UAE, in comparison to 5.6 billion in Orlando. The UAE foodservice sector is set to increase by half to 7.5 billion in 2018.


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