Theme parks are no child’s play

Legoland Water Park recently opened in Dubai with more than 20 water slides and attractions

Whizzing through the air on a high-speed roller coaster and meeting life-sized cartoon characters may seem like child’s play, but theme parks are a serious business. Indeed, growth in global theme park spending is outpacing nominal global GDP growth, according to research by the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions (IAAPA). Furthermore, the global market for amusement and theme parks is likely to reach $44.3 billion by 2020, according to Global Industry Analysts. It comes as no surprise considering what a draw card they are for visitors and, in turn, the economic impact they can deliver.

Already, Orlando, Singapore and Tokyo have provided strong case studies as home to iconic theme parks that play a vital role in attracting new arrivals and capturing a greater share of both the stop over and direct tourism markets. Now, the Middle East is emerging as the next big hub for thrills and spills, with theme park spending in Middle East and North Africa expected to hit $319 million in 2019, according to IAAPA.

The UAE is leading the way due to its mission to attract a larger slice of family tourism, with 2016 marking a new era for theme park development thanks to the opening of Dubai Parks and Resorts – the world’s largest integrated theme park development – and IMG Worlds of Adventure, which are expecting to attract 6.7 million and 4.5 million ticketed visitors respectively during the first year of operation.

Press ... UAE leads the region

There’s now talk of SeaWorld UAE being built on Yas Island, which will provide a further boost to the destination’s appeal. Sure enough, the UAE’s existing and new generation theme parks are pegged to attract more than 19 million admissions a year by 2020, as estimated in a recent report by Colliers International.

With this in mind, it is important that the destination is positioned to take full advantage of the benefits. Hoteliers especially can look to leverage the theme park effect, with Colliers also outlining that the closer a hotel is to a theme park, the stronger its performance will be during the decade following its opening.

Hotels located in the ‘inner circle’ of a theme park development can expect to achieve occupancy levels two to 10 percentage points higher than properties in the outer circle and city. At Singapore’s Resort World Sentosa in 2015, for instance, an occupancy rate of 92 per cent was achieved compared to an average of 85 per cent for the city.

The growing importance and impact of theme parks to the regional tourism landscape is something we are looking forward to exploring more at Arabian Travel Market 2017 where theme park operators and hoteliers will come together to discuss the state of play. We’re certain it will be a thrilling experience
for all.

* Simon Press is senior exhibition director, Arabian Travel Market

By Simon Press