Make the Impossible Possible
Dubai Parks and Resorts creates a multi-facility destination seemingly out of thin air
In a city as ambitious and driven as Dubai, the seemingly impossible becomes reality before your eyes.
Such was the case with Dubai Parks and Resorts, the new mega-destination featuring three theme parks, a water park, a dining and retail district, and a hotel. There are only a few multi-park resorts in the world, and those took years or even decades to complete; owner DXB Entertainments built its integrated leisure property in less than four.
DXB Chief Parks Operating Officer Stanford Pinto says this tight timeline was “one of our biggest achievements,” made possible because the project had “the support of every government entity.” Given Dubai’s mandate to draw 20 million tourists by 2020, every effort is being made by the local government to achieve that goal, attraction officials in the region say. Pinto confirms decision making and approvals were made simpler and quicker because DXB had “a direct line right to the top.”
Pinto was the second employee hired at DXB, a publicly traded company in which Dubai-based Meraas Holding is a majority stakeholder. Dubai Parks and Resorts (DPR) represents a US$3.6 billion investment, and is located almost directly between downtown Dubai and Abu Dhabi, across from the Palm Jebel Ali. The spot is easily accessible, but outside the “concrete jungle,” Pinto says.
The resort includes:
Motiongate Dubai, a Hollywood-themed park
Bollywood Parks Dubai, the first theme park in the world based on Bollywood movies
Legoland Dubai, the seventh such park in the world
Legoland Water Park
Riverland Dubai, a dining and retail district that connects all four parks
Lapita Hotel, a 501-room
Polynesian-themed resort operated by Marriott
Pinto says the project has been in development since 2011, and the goal was to create a destination that offers “the best of the West and the East.” Its diverse palate of attractions is intended to appeal to a wide audience, with Motiongate leaning more toward thrillseekers, Legoland aimed directly at young children, and Bollywood delivering a themed experience never seen before in the industry.
One of the fundamental decisions DXB made for all its parks was to build them in the open air. The UAE’s first two theme parks—Ferrari World Abu Dhabi (2010) and IMG Worlds of Adventure (2016)—are entirely indoors, shielded in temperature-controlled structures from the blistering summer heat in this desert climate. In this way, the DPR facilities are a major departure.
“One thing we decided right up front was, the moment you go inside a building, you take the park out of ‘theme park,’” Pinto says. “We have about seven months of beautiful weather in Dubai, so we definitely knew we didn’t want to be in a box.”
All of DPR’s facilities feature various ways to beat the heat—from indoor queues to shade structures over attractions and midways to mister fans. “With the right landscaping, you can achieve quite a bit [of shade] and still make it feel like you’re in a park,” Pinto says.
Keep on Dreaming
The resort opened one park per month starting in October; part of the urgency was to establish itself well ahead of Expo 2020 Dubai, Pinto says. Now that the property is mostly up and running, DXB’s focus shifts to living up to the government mandate to draw millions of new tourists to the city.
“What’s important for us over the next couple years is to get to know our market and understand the consumer behavior. We’ll have to learn very quickly. When you create an industry, you create the data along with it,” Pinto says. “For us, the proximity markets are key—where something like [DPR] does not exist.”
He says partnerships and sponsorships with related industries will be a primary focus in the coming months and years. But don’t expect Dubai Parks and Resorts to rest on its laurels, either. In July 2016, the resort broke ground on its next theme park, Six Flags Dubai, set to open in 2019. A Legoland Hotel is also in the works, and Pinto hints at other possible expansions, particularly Bollywood (the smallest of the three parks).
“We understand this is something that’s going to grow with time,” Pinto says. “We’re not going to stop growing—we’re not going to stop dreaming. This whole thing was a dream, once upon a time. This is meant to be one of the top destinations in the world. We’ve delivered a quality product, something we’re very proud of. But there’s more to be done, particularly on the marketing front.
“We will not be patient.”
DPR’s ‘Amazer’ Employees
Dubai Parks and Resorts expects to draw a highly diverse tourism contingent, so DXB Entertainments wanted a multicultural staff to match. More than 60 nationalities work at the property; fronline staff are dubbed “Amazers” to help reinforce their role in delivering on the guest experience.
Officials want Dubai Parks and Resorts to be known for its world-class facilities, so they know this requires a team to execute on that expectation. One of the primary goals was teaching employees how to become part of the stories the parks are telling.
“The biggest challenge was making them feel at home here and getting them to work together,” adds DXB’s Stanford Pinto. “I think we pulled that off by not adopting anybody else’s way—we created our own way.”
At the same time, DXB committed to hiring locally and helping a new generation of UAE nationals make their own mark on the attractions industry. The goal is for Emirates to comprise a quarter of the workforce.
“We’re creating an industry,” Pinto says. “It’s all about creating fun.”