Attendance jumps in Dubai, but will it be enough?

January 14, 2019, 1:14 PM · Attendance jumped again at Dubai Parks & Resorts last year, but the number of people visiting the resort's three theme parks continues to lag initial expectations for the resort.

The resort welcomed nearly 2.8 million visitors in 2018, according to DXB Entertainments. That represents a 22 percent increase over 2017, which was the resort's first full year of operation. However, the 2.3 million visitors the park drew that year fell well short of the 6.7 million visitors that the resort had forecast for its first full year.

Dubai Parks & Resorts includes three theme parks: Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai, and Legoland Dubai. DXB Entertainments did not break out attendance for each park. The parks are connected by the Riverland Dubai shopping district, which includes the Lapita Hotel. Occupancy soared at the hotel in 2018, rising from 35 percent in 2017 to 60 percent last year. Occupancy was even higher in the fourth quarter of 2018, with 63 percent occupancy for the quarter and nearly 100 percent during Christmas week.

DXB Entertainments noted that 40 percent of the resort's visitors came from outside the United Arab Emirates, and that the resort is targeting international visitors to boost attendance in 2019. However, the resort will not be helped by the opening of the planned Six Flags Dubai park, as the resort put the plans for that expansion under review in November. Six Flags Dubai had been intended as a "greatest hits" of the Six Flags thrill park chain, with individual lands themed to its top U.S. parks.

Dubai Parks & Resorts also wasn't helped by not having the DreamWorks Animation land at Motiongate Dubai — considered by many visitors to be the highlight of resort — ready when the resort opened officially in December 2016. That undercut initial marketing efforts for the resort, which has posted substantial financial losses since its opening.

It's too early to tell whether Dubai Parks & Resorts will be helped or hindered by the opening of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi on nearby Yas Island. That Abu Dhabi resort area now offers two world-class theme parks, with Warner Bros World joining its neighbor Ferrari World. And Yas Island's developer Miral plans to add a SeaWorld park in 2022. Dubai also will be hosting a world's fair in 2020, so the UAE is boosting its appeal to themed entertainment fans around the world. Whether Dubai Parks & Resorts will be able to ride that increase — or be left behind by it — remains to be seen.

Replies (8)

January 14, 2019 at 2:30 PM

Will it be enough??? DXB Entertainments targeted close to seven million guests per year before opening Dubai Parks and Resorts, and hasn't come close. Their 22% increase reflects 40% of their guests are from outside the UAE while their only on-site hotel has occupancy in the 60% range. They restructured huge debt, added annual pass deals, delayed phase two's Six Flags Dubai, and still are unlikely to crack the TEA/AECOM listings for attendance when that hits in May. Dubai and Abu Dhabi aim to become a global destination theme park hub, and these numbers hardly encourage anyone to expect that goal being achieved anytime soon. The word among themed entertainment industry pros remains that their new indoor competitors on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island and their indoor competitors in Dubai also are running on empty- as seen by the videos guests post from Ferrari World, Warner Bros World, IMG World of Adventures- empty queues in all of them. The desert remains a mirage, not an oasis, for theme park developers and seems likely to stay that way for the foreseeable future....

January 15, 2019 at 5:02 AM

I know I keep saying it but I still honestly feel that these theme parks are little more than vanity projects, pretences that somehow these countries can present themselves as Western. The simple truth is that they are nothing of the sort and as such they are not appealing to large swathes of the Family Holiday/Theme Park Attending target market.
It reminds me of the Millenium Dome in London, (in effect an indoor theme park created in Greenwich for the Millenium). The designers predicted it would attract 12 million people in the one year that it would be open, this despite the fact that the most popular tourist attraction in the UK at the time (Blackpool Pleasure Beach) attracted less than 6 million. It was obvious to anyone looking at it that the Dome was never going to attract those sort of numbers and sure enough it didn’t get anywhere near (from memory it didn’t even reach 4 million). The predictions for Dubai strike me as similar - figures plucked out of the air in order to justify the investment rather than actually based on any real prospect of achievement.
I won’t predict that these parks will close as I think Dubai pride will ensure they get whatever money is necessary to keep them afloat. But I will predict that that will never achieve the numbers they are aiming for.

January 15, 2019 at 10:06 AM

Do people really want to go to Dubai for vacation? I know it has a reputation as the playground for the rich and famous.

It is a foreign country under Islamic rule. It utilitzes slave labor. Women and homosexuals have no rights.

I certainly have no urge to go.

January 15, 2019 at 1:46 PM

Lots of people - including women, non-Muslims, and even quite a few people from the LBGTQ community - visit Dubai with no issues whatsoever. It's got one of the best tourism infrastructures in the world, which is why it has become one of the world's leading tourist destinations.

January 15, 2019 at 2:13 PM

I’m sorry Robert.I admire you immensely and turn to you as my Number One Theme Park Info Source. But the fact that lots of people have nice holidays doesn’t make it safe or friendly to go to Dubai. Members of the LBGTQ community can have lovely holidays there providing they refrain from doing the normal sorts of things heterosexual couples might do. They have to in effect pretend that they are not who they are. Actually scrap that as well. Several times a year UK residents fall foul of Dubai or UAE law for being a ‘bit too familar’ in public, or drinking a bit or something else. Worse still it almost seems random as to what might or might not get you arrested.
Yes the UAE has become a serious contender as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. But every year innocent tourists find themselves on the wrong side of a legal system that sits at comeplet variance with most of the West. Many people consider that a risk worth taking, but i don’t get the same sense of risk visiting Florida...

You post that the Dubai Theme Parks have not seen the sorts of visitor numbers they predicted. I am suggesting that there is a reason for that and it’s to do with the desirability of the destination, something that isn’t as easily overcome as you seem to suggest.

January 15, 2019 at 3:27 PM

You can be whipped for kissing in public, alcohol consumption, sex out of marriage or stoned to death for adultery and blasheming Islam. Raped women have been punished for extramerital sex. Women and homosexuals are second class citizens. No thanks Id rather not support a barbaric medieval theocracy.

January 15, 2019 at 4:39 PM

I have to echo some of the above comments in that those Dubai parks problems are their location in the UAE. I will never visit a country that outright bans gay people. Yes my husband and I could go and have a great vacation I'm sure and not have any issues. We constantly modify our behavior when visiting places that aren't 100% welcoming which is sad but true. My main problem which I've mentioned before is that it is simply illegal to be gay their. So no thanks to the UAE.

January 17, 2019 at 6:00 AM

When the moloch plan was enrolled and especially in the period 2008-2012, one was not allowed to utter critics, amongst professionals. When the results popp up many years later, the same people who previously bashed the whisle-blowers, now try to act as if they all knew it before. I've been bashed on Linkedin groups (Iaapa and Blooloop, amongst others, but the same people frequent all) for my serious doubts on Dubailand, on the Swanscombe/Ebsfleet project, and a few others (smaller) all based on market feasibility insights.

Dubai is not the "classic" tourist hotspot it pretends to be.
It attracts, to start with, a very peculiar type of tourist, commonly known as "shopping tourism".
For a long distance destination, the average number of stay-days is remarkably short. Noone needs more then a week for accomplishing the shopping. The statistics are thin, in Dubai, and just one time I could read around 4 nights average stay, another time around 5. Quick calculation based on # of hotelk rooms + appartments, the occupancy rate Dubai tourism publishes, and the total arrivals, I myself get around 4.6 nights estimated average. Given the fact that, with appartments, quite many are (timeshare) semi residential for UK, American and other citizens, the average stay of 'typical tourists' could be much lower.

It is not a 'classic' family destination.
Dubai mainly attracts couples. Theme parks are not really the place to be for 4.6 night shopping duo-travellers. The only exception to be made for the Arab neighbour countries (Saudi Arabia, Oman, Kuweit..)

Desert and burning hot.
Even if there are beaches and pools, the heat is exhausting for most people on earth, and the only refreshing retreat after whatever activity in the heat, is airconditioning. Nobody on earth is travelling long distance with core destination "indoor theme park". Theme park are outdoors leisure spots, and the desert heat makes the location unappropriate, generally speaking.
Immediately to be linked to "no lush environment".
Everybody expects theme parks to be offering lush natural environment, lush landscaping, abundant foliage. It is a core standard in the design of successfull theme parks. A couple of rows of thin palm trees will never get there. Master plans, in design phase on promotion paintings, fake the lush vegetation. For instance :
The drawings are easy to make, the landscaping however is a nightmare to do ! Concrete & this palm trees is the outcome, apart from really tiny areas where "gardens" can be build, on the cost of huge amounts of water, day after day.
Miserable "lush" (???) reality, for instance :
In a way, the design offices draw up fake master plan after fake masterplan. Visitor's expectations are immediately harmed.
There are good climatic theme park conditions in most parts of the world, but it does not include deserts...

Revisiting ?
Think about the classic question "return visits". Is Dubai a once-been-seen-forever destination, or a revisitable place ?
Cost is one hard factor. (No low cost options available) There is no survey available but it's doubtable it would be a more then once destination, for most people on earth, except for those who choose to get Brittish "winter retirement" stays there, instead of for instance in Spain.
The other factor is that bejond the city's new built highlights, there is no escape available to surrounding places of interest. There are none, except when you consider desert safaries. No antiques, no thrilling old cities. The Dubai historic centre is tiny and not spectacular artwise. Thousands of other destinations worldwide offer better options. In big cities, and in smaller art cities. We all know the "real" culture destinations.
On the long term, the tourist market could still grow a bit, due to 'stock' of firsttimers worldwide, then bleed out. The undeniable big market of first timer shopping tourists from India, will drive the business a big decennium, but after the premature shopping tourist stage is over, also there it will drop. (There are many research studies about the classic 3 phases of emerging tourism from a specific country. All go through shopping hunt tourism > sightseeing tourism > experience tourism.

Human rights and legal issues.
Many comments above here mention it. For legal, moral and freedom related reasons, it will "never" be a vacation destination for a lot of people. Whatever the offers. That's in sharp contrast with almost a majority of tourist destinations in the world. Facts are facts.


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