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Gulf sees glut of theme parks

News, 30 August 2016

DUBAI: As the world's largest indoor amusement park prepares to open tomorrow in Dubai, this sector is emerging as a fast-growing, post-oil focus for the region and is attracting the involvement of leading US and European brands.

IMG Worlds of Adventure boasts 22 rides across four themed worlds – including a Marvel zone dedicated to comic-book superheroes, and a Cartoon Network zone featuring a range of TV characters familiar to younger consumers – all under one roof and air-conditioned to provide relief from summer temperatures that routinely exceed 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

"That really gives us a competitive edge," said Lennard Francois Otto, chief executive of IMG Worlds of Adventure, "the fact that we can literally run 12 months out of the year.

"From a ride standpoint, we've picked the best ride vendors from around the world – the same ride vendors you'll see today in Disney and Universal [theme parks]," he added.

Disney, which owns Marvel Studios, has been closely involved in the creation of the Marvel Zone.

Other leading brands, including Lego, are moving into this space. A Legoland attraction forms one pillar of a trio currently being developed by the government-backed Dubai Parks and Resorts – the others being Motiongate and Bollywood – which are due to open by the end of October, according to The National.

Meanwhile, Six Flags Entertainment, Disney's US rival, is building what it says are "innovative, record-breaking attractions" at a new park within a Dubai Parks and Resorts development at Jebel Ali which is due to be completed in 2019.

Also in the pipeline are a Warner Bros theme park on Abu Dhabi's Yas Island, due to open in 2018, and a Fox-branded theme park, with attractions based on TV and film titles such as "Ice Age" and "The Simpsons", scheduled for a 2020 opening.

"There is no doubt a significant gap exists for theme-park destinations in the regional market and Indian subcontinent," said Raed Kajoor Al Nuaimi, chief executive of Dubai Parks and Resorts.

"The levels of demand can support several entertainment destinations across the region," he told the Wall Street Journal.

Data sourced from The National, Wall Street Journal; additional content by Warc staff