Interview: Raed Al Nuaimi
How would you qualify leisure tourism’s growth potential in the region, and what is Dubai’s competitive advantage in this segment?
RAED AL NUAIMI: Leisure tourism is currently a huge untapped market in the GCC and in the wider MENA region. With a growing number of theme parks and entertainment facilities set to open up in the UAE in 2016 and beyond, Dubai is set to become the theme park and entertainment destination of choice for the GCC and its surrounding regions. As the emirate’s population and the tourism sector continue to grow, there is an increasing demand for new leisure and entertainment destinations, with PwC forecasting that by 2021 more than 18m people will be visiting theme parks in the UAE annually. One just needs to look at the number of operators planning to open in Dubai and the GCC over the next years to understand that the industry is undergoing considerable growth. Theme parks and entertainment destinations are integral to the desire to attract more family tourism to the UAE as part of the Tourism Vision 2020.
What are the main challenges faced by leisure tourism in the emirate?
AL NUAIMI: Dubai has become a centre for entertainment and cultural events throughout the year, and the leisure industry is a strong engine for national economic growth, generating robust business opportunities and creating thousands of new jobs. It is an active force working towards fulfilling Dubai’s goal of attracting 20m visitors per year by 2020. At Dubai Parks and Resorts, for instance, we are forecasting 6.7m ticketed visits in 2017, the first full year of operation, helping to produce revenue of Dh2.4bn ($653.3m).
Despite this, leisure tourism is facing some challenges. For a destination like Dubai, with a very cosmopolitan, transient population and a high volume of tourists, the state of the wider global economy will always impact the sector. However, Dubai as an entertainment destination should aim to attract as many local visitors as tourists as possible, and the different theme parks will provide tailored offerings that appeal to the variety of cultural backgrounds present here. We also need to ensure that we have world-class destination management in place so that we can successfully compete against more established leisure destination markets. For example, we have climate challenges to manage and consider in this region. Keeping this in mind requires the adoption of advanced air conditioning systems and a high percentage of indoor rides and attractions, which will make Dubai a destination that can be enjoyed 365 days a year.
How can Dubai boost its value proposition as a global tourism centre through further infrastructure investments?
AL NUAIMI: Investments in increasing city-wide connectivity, especially for tourists, will be key to ensuring success, as one of the main challenges of developing a new industry is also developing the resources to support it. One of the most important aspects of this relatively new industry is building capacity within the Emirati community and ensuring that it can get behind this important and exciting sector. This is why we have launched our Emiratisation programme, which aims to hire over 1000 Emiratis across all positions. To achieve this, we have developed an extensive programme that comprises three sub-programmes: Forsati, Sahim and Helmi, which offer Emiratis of all career levels – from new graduates to future leaders – a broad range of job opportunities. Each division is designed to empower participants to become well-trained professionals, who will play a central role in driving the operations of our theme parks.
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