Is Dubai more than a Fun Factory?

The first VR Park and Theme Parks without visitors!

I was visiting Dubai again this year, for the sixth or seventh time in total, and I’m still amazed about the enormous expansion of this region which doesn’t know when to stop. This time, my travel companion was Richard de Bruin, Director of Tourism Organization RBT Rivierenland. This trip was also very useful for us to share experiences. The journey of this year didn’t only take place in Dubai, but also in nearby Abu Dhabi. Again, we want to bring you our experiences and mainly the details are making the difference!

Our bucket list:

Rove Hotel Down Town – Deal Dubai Trade Show & Convention – IMG World – Dubai Mall -BurAKalifa Fountain – Motion Gate – JBR Walk – Dubai Wheel – WB Warner Bross – Ferrari World – Y-as Mall – Last Exit – La Perle – Palm Waterpark Atlantis

Rove Hotel – Down Town, a hotel as it should be!

It is the third time in a row that I’m staying here. In the middle of the experience with a view of the skyline of Dubai and within walking distance of the Dubai Mall. The room is simple and therefore comfortable and functional at the same time, with also a perfectly fine bed. The hospitality is very special which can also be seen on TripAdvisor. Not once did I go home from this hotel without a person’s business card and a personal interview with the hotel manager.

The details at a glance:

– Checking in and out whenever you want
– Central reception room, sort of a cosy home / office
– Sockets everywhere for charging phones etc
– Lockers are provided within the service and are therefore free accessible
– Breakfast / lunch / dinner from a buffet or a la carte or mixed together
– A gym as it should be
– Functional pool
– Excellent Superstore and Coffee Corner 24Seven
– The most outstanding; the “spells” and “slogans” that make you feel welcome

Deal Dubai Trade Show and Convention

I have never travelled without predetermine my objectives. Neither this time, so I had enough discussion subjects prepared during the visit to the exhibition with Hennie van der Most, Nico Tienpont, Simon van Dijk and Andrew Anderson CEO Liseberg Theme Park. Andreas Anderson is also the CEO of IAAPA and will give his views on international developments of tourism during the Congress “The Holiday of the Future” on the 12th June.
Dutch suppliers as Sidijk, I-Glide, Vekoma, ETF, Most, Leisure M2 stood at the fair along with well-known companies as Walltopia, Pro-Slide, Water Polin Parcs etc. This exhibition lasted three days and what they offered was very limited. I also saw that Patrick Jansen of Holland Events Group WhipeOut is trying to break through internationally with his famous TV format. Adding a one day visit in such a travel program is sufficient and it gives you a chance to make a perfect combination with visits to the many tourist hotspots too.

The first real winter Theme Parks are coming!

A trip to Oman had been cancelled at the last minute because the construction of the largest indoor amusement Winter Park got delays during construction. This project of a few hundred million euros is being performed under the direction of Unlimited Snow. Kees Albers, owner, and partner Alex Lokhorst are the creators of the artificial snow. Kees is responsible for the success of the Winter Efteling and Alex of the world-famous Snow World. Now they are building Winter Them Parks together in countries around the Gulf States and China. The developments are going very fast and Kees is expecting an increase of at least ten extremely large Indoor Winter Them Parks. Obviously Unlimited Snow is working on a lot more and is also dealing with the project Holland City, where they are still looking for investors. They are also bringing their own developed concept to market “Tape My Day”; As a visitor you will be followed by dozens of cameras and you get a Winter Theme Park video reportage of yourself when you leave. When I asked when we can expect something like that in our country, Kees told me the European market is simply too small for such projects…

Water theme parks closed in summer

Global Village theme park, located next to the largest indoor amusement park IMG Worlds of Adventure (for now though), half an hour drive from down town, has closed the gates early April due to high summer temperatures. The Y-AS Waterpark in Abu Dhabi is closed because visitors will stay away with such temperatures and with too less indoor parks available.
This time we also visited the famous Palm Island with a visit to the famous aquarium and the Atlantis Water Park. An hour in a queue for a water slide is no exception. Here you can dive among the sharks. The entry fees are expensive and developments do not stand still. These are the places where you see new commercial concepts and it’s in the smallest details where you really need to think about. For example, we wanted to buy a ticket at three o’clock in the afternoon and at that time the cashier advised us to come back a day later! The ticket will then only cost us half; I still don’t want to understand.

Last year we did not get the change to visit the theme park Motion Gate, based on films like The Hunger Games, The Smurfs Village and Shrek. This is an area, located halfway between Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in the middle of nowhere with parks such as Legoland – Legoland Waterpark – Bollywood and Six Flags which will be opening in 2019. In addition, the first Outlet Shopping Mall is located there too. At 11am when we walked into the park we were the only visitors. A few hours later, when we left this park, it was still very quiet. This was the third theme park without significant numbers of visitors. With so many new attractions coming it has to go wrong, or are losses financed by other (oil) resources?
In my opinion, DreamWorks can be placed among the top three best indoor attractions in the world with their special ride ‘DragonGliders’ floating high above a themed Viking Village.

Backstage Tour WB WarnerBross Abu Dhabi

That includes Abu Dhabi, which is working on a ‘RatRace’ and has opened many (water) parks in recent years. This time, we were invited by the TEA, organisation of Themepark owners, consultants and suppliers. This is the largest indoor amusement park based on characters like Batman, Spider-Man, The Flintstones and LooneyTunes. IMGworlds is placed second because of this, and well known Indoor Theme parks such as Toverland and Plopsa etc. cannot compete with it. This beats it all what I’ve seen to date. More than twelve years of planning, 50,000m2, daily 5,000 workers / 24 hours a day. The opening is planned for the summer to open and so is the new near airport. This park is located next to Yas Waterworld and opposite Ferrari World. Anyone that wants to buy a ticket need to go through the new Shopping Mall first. How can you get park visitors to go shopping or eating at the Food Court? The most special attraction still is the fastest roller coaster, but since it opened eight years nothing new is added and in my opinion it just remains being a weak showing of an escalated fairground or brand experience.

The ‘Last Exit’ on the way to the 2020 World Expo

During each trip abroad, I come across something special that knows to triggers my senses and inspiration. In this case we visited the Dubai Mall VR Park. The first VR Indoor Theme Park. It is a collection of VR activities with rides and attractions from the previous SegaWorld. It is a new concept which replaces the “old” Gaming experiences. The business model was very surprising. You can choose the content you want and per activity you can print off a ticket. This was decided in order to anticipate on the impulse buyers who can be tempted for a night out to try out a VR activity or one of the Rides. Is VR still so new or does it need a lot of technical support, I’m wondering this now I know that two mechanics are standing stand by for four months already!
At JBR Walk, the under construction Big Wheel, obviously again; the largest in the world, is a water obstacle Waterpark blow up lying in the water. This will soon be found in more places in our country.
We’ve also let ourselves be surprised on the route from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. You need to stop for a coffee or a snack in one of the Food Trucks named Last Exit. I found myself playing the lead role in an American movie located in a Food Truck Experience. It’s a true story and there are constantly driving cars through the Drive-Inn which offers a lot of choice of different fast food. There even is a chapel in style for those who feel the need for healing. The toilets are equipped with style, with a gasoline gun handle from the gas station.
Another thing is the arrival of the World Exhibition of 2020. The area covers more than 400 hectares and there are more than twenty cranes. Dutch companies are involved in the construction of this megalomaniac project that expects 25 million visitors from around the world. The question is if this large number of visitors will be enough for all the theme parks and if a desert is the right setting for such an event?

Who will join me next time?
Hans van Leeuwen, Trendwatcher & International Leisure Consultant

More images can be seen at the bottom of this page.

Tourist Hotspots:
ROVE Hotel:
Dubai Parks:
IMG Worlds of Adventure:
YAS Island:
Ferrari World:

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  • Hof van Saksen
  • Landal Greenparks
  • PUUR Exloo
  • Julianahoeve
  • Aqua Best
  • Wunderland Kalkar DE
  • Beerze Bulten
  • Groepen.NL
  • Gemeenten Lelystad
  • Gemeente Zwolle
  • Midden Limburg
  • Provincie Drenthe
  • TCV Terschelling
  • Kontour Vastgoed
  • Eiland van Maurik
  • Camping Betuwe
  • Dagvoorzitter- Spreker – Pannellid – Commissariaat RVC

    Trendwatcher en adviseur Hans van Leeuwen staat in de recreatiesector bekend om zijn directheid en ongezouten mening over trends en ontwikkelingen in leisure. Dat zij hiermee scherp aan de wind zeilt, zorgt ervoor dat bij menigeen soms de haren recht overeind gaan staan. Richard de Bruin heeft mijn zijn gevoel voor innovatie veel overheden en bedrijfsleven van nieuwe producten en diensten voorzien. Met zijn vooruitziende blik loopt hij in  ruim 30 jaar vaak een stapje vooruit.

    Hans en Richard leveren met hun professionele oog voor de juiste leisure trends een positieve bijdrage in de recreatiesector, al was het maar omdat zij iedereen op scherp weet te zetten en voor menig recreatieondernemer een spiegel is.

    Met veertig jaar ervaring in de vrijetijdsindustrie weet Pleisureworld op scherpzinnige wijze te bepalen waar het in de toekomst naartoe zal gaan. Nauwgezet houden wij de consumententrends in de gaten en weten wij hoe de klantreis van de toekomst eruit ziet. Op zoek naar een dagvoorzitter, spreker, pannellid, een nieuwe commissaris of toezichthouder? Pleisureworld komt met leisure expertise en brengt het met passie. Bekijk hieronder de mogelijkheden.