Your favorite characters have arrived. Experience the unforgettable at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, opening this summer! Stay tuned across our social channels for more updates!#WBWorld #InAbuDhabi #YasIsland pic.twitter.com/uLrcpWMZ27— Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi (@wbworldad) January 23, 2018
The park is going in on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, right next to Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and the popular Yas Waterworld water park. The UAE's Formula 1 circuit is the same entertainment complex, as well.
Of course, we have been telling you for years about new theme parks planned and under construction in the United Arab Emirates. And, to date, not one has cracked the Top 20 in attendance for parks in the Themed Entertainment Association's Europe and the Middle East (EMEA) region, much less the world as a whole. Three of the UAE's water parks made the TEA's EMEA regional Top 10 for attendance, led by Aquaventure's 1.4 million visitors last year. That attendance figure would have just missed the cut-off for the Top 20 in the region for theme parks, which was 1.5 million. For comparison, the number-20 theme park for attendance the North America region, Six Flags Great America, drew twice as many visitors — 2.95 million last year.
So what about Warner Bros. World makes it any different from the theme parks that have come before it in the UAE?
Ferrari World went it alone until IMG World of Adventure opened in neighboring Dubai in the summer of 2016. That park offered an attractive line-up of franchises, with licenses for Marvel and Cartoon Network IP, but it lacked any record-setting or ground-breaking attractions that would lure European and Asian theme park fans from better Marvel rides in Orlando and Osaka. IMG Worlds of Adventure is located 77 miles from Ferrari World, pretty much negating any synergy between the parks, as well.
Later in 2016, Dubai Parks and Resorts addressed the critical mass issue by opening three parks in its new resort, located between IMG Worlds and the Ferrari park. With the Middle East's first Legoland, the movie-themed Motiongate Dubai and a unique Bollywood-themed park, the resort offered an intriguing line-up that suggested it might be the one that finally offered a compelling theme park vacation destination in the Middle East.
But fans can find Legolands all over the world now, and Bollywood turned out to be a half-day park, at best. It's gorgeous, but again, lacks any truly unique, world-class attractions, save for the upcharge Jaan-E-Jigar musical. Motiongate's biggest draw is its indoor Dreamworks Animation land, but its top ride — a How to Train Your Dragon-themed coaster — is a duplicate of the Arthur coaster in Europa Park. Again, the parks offer nothing unique enough to draw the European and Asian fans that the parks would need to chart.
So what of Warner Bros. World? By going in next to Ferrari World and a popular water park, this new park will have critical mass advantage over the relatively isolated IMG Worlds. And Yas Island's three-park line-up seems far more compelling than the attractions at Dubai Parks, with Formula Rossa leading an improving line up at Ferrari World, which has added a flying theater and family dark ride since it opened.
California's Thinkwell Group is taking a creative lead on the development of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. It's done some great work for the Universal theme parks in the past, including many of its Harry Potter shows and media events. But is developer Miral spending the money necessary to build world-class attractions in Warner Bros. World... or is it crippling the park with the limited attraction budgets that hampered IMG Worlds of Adventure, Motiongate, and Bollywood Parks?
Warner Bros. World is trying to avoid the brutally hot weather conditions that make visiting the mostly outdoor Dubai Parks a less than appealing concept for much of the year by building an indoor park. But an indoor environment puts literal constraints on development possibilities, and creating massive indoor spaces can consume a project's entire construction budget by itself. Is it even possible to build a world-class indoor theme park?
We will not know the answer until Warner Bros. World opens this summer and fans get an opportunity to judge the park for themselves. But Warner Bros. World offers a better location, better attractions in the immediate vicinity, and as strong an IP line-up as anything else that has opened in the Middle East. It might be the region's best opportunity to date to reach that elusive tipping point that would make the UAE a compelling destination for the world's theme park fans.
I've seen this happen over and over again where developers get into theme parks because they think its easy money and then find out its not so easy. Building a theme park isn't like building a McDonalds where you just build it and then start making money off of it. They want to be Orlando but the reality is they are not and their theme parks are second rate compared to major destination parks in the USA.
Trying to compete with Orlando is a stupid thing to do for many reasons. Most European travelers will go to Orlando if they want an Orlando vacation. When the UAE gets attractions on the scale of Avatar, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Nintendo then we can start talking. Until then cut rate things like Motiongate World, Bollywoodland, and Warner Bros Mall Adventure will just continue to lose money.
Sure their waterparks have some success because a waterpark is a waterpark, you can put those anywhere hot and people will go. They are much cheaper to operate and less investment involved. But their second rate "destination parks" are never going match Orlando and I think they are going to have a very hard time just getting to break-even (which as far as I know hasn't happened yet). Look at how much money Disney is pumping into WDW/DLR and Universal is pumping into UO/USH. Pandora, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Nintendo.
The UAE draws some curious Brits but not the huge throngs of tourists by the millions needed to compete with Orlando (which is their stated goal they have been repeating for over a decade now). Also I have serious doubts people from Oman, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iran care about the place enough to give it the attendance to ensure its success.
Why on earth would I go to Abu Dhabi when Orlando is three hours away and California is five hours away (direct flights). And if I ever take the plunge and fly halfway around the world for theme parks, Tokyo and Shanghai beckon.
The growing Asian middle classes, and cash rich European milenails are.
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While parts of the UAE may look like Las Vegas, it is not Las Vegas or Orlando and visiting there can lead to serious consequences if you break some of their rules - and Bugs Bunny and the Loony Tunes Characters are not going to save you.
These new theme parks boasted that they were going to become world class theme park destination resorts -- like WDW. You can't do that when you have little hope of attracting people from around the world.
Finally, I'm not the target market for Tokyo Disney, either. But that's the one on my bucket list, not Dubai.
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