On December 16, the Middle East’s ‘largest theme park destination’ will complete its opening. Dubai Parks and Resorts’ vice-president of sales Julien Munoz tells Jennifer Morris how it will attract new markets, and why the UK travel trade is so integral.
In a week’s time, Dubai Parks and Resorts’ owners will have their vision of creating “the Middle East’s largest theme park” destinations realised, when the Hollywood-inspired Motiongate opens to the public.
It is one of three parks owned by DXB Entertainments PJSC, which together comprise 100 rides and attractions, and have been three years in the making, with the parks’ openings staggered over the past two months.
Legoland Dubai – the first Legoland park in the Middle East – was the first to open, on October 31, and has proved “very popular”, according to Julien Munoz, Dubai Parks and Resorts’ vice-president of sales. It is attached to the Legoland Water Park, for families with children aged two to 12.
Bollywood Parks Dubai, a “first-of-its-kind”, opened on November 15, with rides and attractions based on some of Bollywood’s biggest blockbusters.
The “grand opening” of Motiongate, touted as the region’s “largest Hollywood-inspired theme park” and featuring immersive rides based on DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Studios and Lionsgate films including Shrek, will conclude the three parks.
And once these last doors open, it is the UK that Munoz believes will likely be generating some of the strongest demand. “In Europe we expect the UK to be one of the biggest markets. There is huge volume to Dubai from there in general and we know that theme parks are popular with the UK,” he says. “Germany, Russia, China and Nigeria are also expected to do well.”
The parks are connected by Riverland Dubai, a retail and dining destination, which also includes a Polynesian-themed family hotel named Lapita.
The three-year project might be complete, but as Munoz confirms, the owners have no intention of standing still. “The ambition is to keep growing the destination,” he says.
Which is why work has already begun on Dubai Parks and Resorts’ fourth park, Six Flags Dubai – the Middle East’s first Six Flags park – which is expected to open in late 2019 and will be largely targeted at the Gulf states market.
Six Flags’ addition to the development, which stands opposite the Palm Jebel Ali, is 42 miles from Dubai airport and 37 miles from Abu Dhabi airport and will take the destination to 30.6 million square feet.
“Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and India will be our biggest markets – there has been a demand for this type of attraction in the region for some time,” says Munoz. “Previously these countries would have to fly for five or six hours to reach something of this kind.”
A total of 4,000 jobs have been created with the parks’ openings. Multiple languages will be spoken by the staff, and all information will be listed in Arabic and English.
And Munoz insists the UK travel trade will be – and has already begun to be – a key part of Dubai Parks and Resorts’ distribution. “[They are] great at dealing with these products,” he adds.
Major UK agencies and operators have signed joint marketing deals to package the attraction, while DoSomethingDifferent.com and Attraction World also sell tickets, which agents can earn commission on.
Munoz says he and his colleagues also used a recent visit to the UK for World Travel Market London 2016 to take the opportunity to “travel up and down the country” training agents. An online training programme also features incentives and competitions.
Meanwhile Munoz reveals plans are afoot for fam trips next year, for agents at both multiples and independents. “We want to be distributed by the largest amount of travel agents possible,” he adds.
“We want to thank UK agents for their support so far – we have had positive feedback.
“In my experience, the UK travel trade is very proactive and professional and agents provide great service for their customers.”
He is optimistic that the resort’s parks, such as Bollywood Parks Dubai, will help attract new theme park audiences – both within the UK and elsewhere.
“We hope to attract Indian communities living in the UK and in other countries outside of India, as well as India itself,” he says.
“In my experience the UK travel trade is very proactive and professional, and agents provide great service for their customers. We want to thank UK agents for their support so far – we have had positive feedback.”
“As far as I’m aware, Bollywood sells more cinema tickets than Hollywood. It made sense to us to build a park themed on that.”
Bollywood Parks Dubai has been designed to “recreate the Bollywood experience” through themed attractions and rides spread across five zones: Bollywood Boulevard, Mumbai Chowk, Rustic Ravine, Royal Plaza and Bollywood Film Studios.
“Visitors will experience bold action, colourful storytelling and captivating dance sequences inspired by nine popular films,” said DXB Entertainments PJSC in a statement.
These films comprise Rock On!!, Don, Lagaan, Sholay, Dabangg, Mughal-e-Azam, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, RA.One and Krrish.
The park’s flagship offering is the 850-seater Rajmahal Theatre, which will host a separately ticketed Broadway-style, Bollywood-themed show. During the day, the park will have up to 20 live shows across five stages, while the park also features six themed restaurants.
With its role as the largest entertainment destination in the region, Dubai Parks and Resorts is intended to support the UAE’s “tourism vision” and grow the family leisure industry in the region.
Asked whether Dubai Parks and Resorts could eventually overtake some of the more established international theme park brands, Munoz insists: “We don’t want to compare ourselves to anyone else.
“We definitely want to be widely recognised, but our focus is on delivering an amazing experience with great entertainment and service.”
Pre-purchased one-day single standard adult tickets will range from £49 to £68 and day tickets for multiple parks will range from £98 to £182.
The One Day All Parks Hopper Pass costs £98 for adults and £88 for children. A Three Days All Parks Hopper Pass costs £178 for adults and £162 for children.
Dubai Parks and Resorts will also feature a VIP ticket priced at £307 per day that will include a personal tour guide, discounts on food and fast-track entry to rides.