• Dubai Parks & Resorts (DPR) expects 6.7 million visitors in first year of operation
  • DPR has expansion strategy that it will activate from 2018, depending on attendance figures
  • DPR projects 5 million unique visitors, although numbers will fall 6 per cent in the hot summer months

Dubai Parks & Resorts’ (DPR’s) theme park, which is set to open to the public in October 2016, is expected to attract 6.7 million visitors in its first year of operations.

DPR projects 5 million unique visitors, although numbers will fall 6 per cent in the hot summer months. About 75 per cent of visitors are expected to come from abroad.

The project comprises three parks; Motiongate and Bollywood Park, both operated by Spain’s Parques Reunidas, and Legoland, operated by UK-based Merlin Entertainments. A central leisure area, Riverpark, will offer food, drink and retail space and will be free to enter.

DPR is 60 per cent owned by local developer Meraas, with 40 per cent traded on the Dubai Financial Market.

The actual attendance figures will be closely studied by the owners and operators, as they decide how to expand the park.

“We have an internal five-year plan for capital expenditure,” says Brian Machamer, senior director of theme park operations at DPR. “We don’t want to overbuild for the opening day, but we do want the strategy in place for when the time comes.”

About half the land on the 2 million-square-metre site has been set aside for future expansions. Phase two of the three-phase project is currently under discussions with the strategic partner, US-based Six Flags Entertainment.

Starting from 2018, DPR will activate the plan to add attractions. Whether this involves individual rides and hotels, or whole new parks, will depend on demand.

The strategic plan includes:

  • A Legoland hotel
  • An expansion of the waterpark in Legoland
  • An extension of the navigable Riverpark canal, with cruise boats

However, the park will open about three years before the Route 2020 metro line, which will include a stop connected directly to the park. DPR is not relying on the line, and mass transit options will be provided by shuttle buses.

“What other theme park in the world has a direct metro line?” asks Paul LaFrance, chief projects officer at DPR. “It is still a hypothetical and we don’t have figures for the effect on visitor numbers.”

However, the investment for Expo 2020, including the Maktoum International airport expansion, infrastructure work, retail developments and hotels, will boost the parks’ appeal.

“We will be up and running at full speed before Expo 2020,” says Machamer. “As hotels come online and tourism numbers grow, we can grow with them.”

DPR has a more-the-merrier attitude to other theme park developments, and hopes other projects such as the Ferrari World expansion in Abu Dhabi and IMG Worlds of Adventure will increase Dubai’s appeal as a whole. But competition for visitors will be high.

“We will have the biggest capacity in Dubai from an entertainment perspective,” says Machamer. “Everybody going to Ferrari World from Dubai will have to drive right past. I’ll leave you to decide which they will visit.”

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