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Warner Bros. moves forward on hotel plans as SeaWorld steps back

November 8, 2018, 2:14 PM · Yesterday we asked if Warner Bros. should dive back into the theme park business? Well, it now looks like the studio is at least expanding its presence in the hotel business.

The head of Warner Bros.' development partner on the new Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi theme park has revealed plans to build a themed hotel next to the park.

"A Warner Bros. hotel here is a certainty. It's coming a couple of years from now," Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Miral Asset Management said, quoted in a British newspaper. "It will be connected to some extent to the actual theme park so it is almost a two-minute walk. It is the first of its kind for Warner Bros. and will have a hint of it in the rooms."

The plans reportedly call for an eight-story hotel with 156 rooms, connected to a seven-story tower with 156 suites. The Miral chairman also said that the park already is planning an expansion to its six themed lands, using pre-planned expansion plots around the building that houses the indoor theme park.

The addition of a themed hotel will help move the Yas Island resort up our theme park resort walkability ranking. Even though Warner Bros. World and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi are built across the street from each other, the hotel district on Yas Island stands about a mile away, on the far side of the Yas Marina Circuit Formula 1 race track. While that wouldn't be much of a hike in temperate Anaheim, in Abu Dhabi, that's an impossible trek for about eight months of the year, when simply walking from your door to a taxi can feel like sticking your body into a pizza oven. (Been there, done that, hold the pepperoni.) If the new hotel also includes a connection to Ferrari World or its adjacent Yas Mall, it easily would become the top place to stay on the island for theme park fans visiting the resort.

Yet as one theme park steps up to accommodate its fans, another park is stepping away. SeaWorld announced that it has dropped plans to develop a hotel for its San Diego park.

Under former CEO Joel Manby, SeaWorld Parks and Recreation had signed a deal with Evans Hotels to build a SeaWorld-branded hotel next to SeaWorld San Diego. Manby's gone now, and SeaWorld took a $2.8 million charge last quarter to get out of the deal.

On-site hotels can reap big returns for theme parks, as they help people extend their stay and spend more money at the park. But a park has to offer enough compelling attractions that people consider it at least a full-day visit, if not a multi-day one. Nearby Legoland California has opened two successful hotels to support its ever-growing theme park, water park, and SeaLife Aquarium, which has claimed a decent chunk of the school-field-trip business that SeaWorld used to enjoy. For now, interim SeaWorld CEO John Reilly — a former park president in San Diego — said that SeaWorld's priority is growing its base of attractions to drive attendance at its parks, before trying to jump into the hotel business that Manby wanted to develop.

In Abu Dhabi, Miral already has a world-class line-up of attractions, including the world's largest indoor theme park (Warner Bros.) and world's fastest roller coaster (Formula Rossa, at Ferrari World). Adding themed hotels adjacent to those parks is the next logical step in establishing Yas Island as a leading theme park resort.

Replies (2)

November 8, 2018 at 5:31 PM

A hotel built and operated by a 3rd party that will have "a hint" of Warner Bros theming in the rooms? This doesn't exactly move the needle as far as WB's theme park business is concerned.

November 8, 2018 at 9:34 PM

If it drives attendance to the park and extends guest spending, it will. If successful, Miral's hotel will help establish the business case for more WB-branded parks and hotels in developing markets around the world.

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