Masters of Reinvention
Outside the Dubai city center sits a tapestry in the sand, where diverse culture, exquisite dining, exciting shows, and rides are woven together in harmony among a chorus of change. Global Village is a remarkable seasonal park that has found a way to reinvent itself annually. It’s a place where “continuous change is the constant,” according to Chief Operating Officer Ali Alsuwaidi. “Global Village is in a great position to say that creativity drives customer satisfaction because that’s exactly what we have been doing every year, for 27 seasons,” he says.
Global Village is one of the longest-established tourist venues in Dubai and is among the world’s most visited attractions. Since its 1997 launch, more than 100 million guests have visited this multicultural family destination for shopping, entertainment, dining, and attractions.
“Last season, we welcomed a record-breaking 7.8 million guests in six months through our gates, which is a tribute to the vibrant economy and healthy tourism numbers Dubai enjoyed last winter,” Alsuwaidi says. The park operates in the evenings from October to April. Daily attendance averages 40,000.
Global Village is part of Dubai Holding’s entertainment portfolio that includes assets like Dubai Parks and Resorts, the Ain Dubai observation wheel, Roxy Cinemas, The Green Planet, and Laguna Water Park.
Creating Limitless Excitement
Global Village allows people to explore the world’s wonders in one place within a few hours. A home-grown Emirati brand, the park has evolved organically from a small festival-style event into a massive theme park spanning more than 15 million square feet. The variety, volume, and ever-changing novelty of offerings are central to its appeal.
“The idea that every season we rebuild the park is extraordinary to anybody who’s been working in this business for any length of time, but essentially that’s what we do,” explains Jaki Ellenby, Global Village’s executive director of marketing.
While the infrastructure stays fundamentally the same, new cultural pavilions emerge, facades receive updates, and extra experiences are constantly added.
“Global Village is about uniting cultures and creating wonder. We strongly believe that the world’s diversity and creativity is a limitless source of excitement,” Ellenby says. “This year, we have 27 pavilions representing over 90 cultures from around the world. We have over 3,000 boutiques and more than 200 dining options.”
Season 27 sees the opening of the Road of Asia, a shopping street showcasing authentic arts and crafts from 13 Asian countries, including Nepal. “The restaurants are kicking it up a level this year,” adds Ellenby. “We have loads of new restaurants and a one-star Michelin chef for the first time.”
There’s a multitude of shows and concerts, with a line-up that changes from season to season. “We have over 200 performances every night with 400 performers from almost every corner of the globe,” Ellenby says. Signature shows include a popular stunt show, complete with speeding cars, personal watercraft, and pyrotechnics. “We change the storyline yearly, and we’ve introduced premium seating,” she says. Last year, the park created characters—Waleef, Zoya, Aiyah, and Ozka, known as The Wonderers—who star in two new shows this year.
Plotting Strategic Growth
Attractions include a heritage village, where guests can discover Emirati history and culture. Global Village also has the region’s first Ripley’s Believe It or Not! attraction.
Each season, Global Village introduces new experiences to the Carnaval section of the park, a traditional midway that is home to more than 170 rides, games, and attractions, including a 60-meter-tall Festival Wheel.
“Here in Carnaval, we know how much our guests love the Haunted House, so for season 27 we have doubled it in size and produced an amazing and frightening new experience called the ‘House of Fear.’ Those who dare to enter will be led through 10 new scenes—including the Cave and the Asylum—and joined by live actors and the latest animatronics to treat them to the full ‘Fear’ experience,” says Mark Tucker, director of ORB Entertainment, which operates the Carnaval section at Global Village.
During the 2022-23 season, guests will soar 200 feet high on a new tethered “Big Balloon” ride. Global Village is also launching an outdoor ice rink using real ice. “We’re calling it ‘Snow Fest’ because Carnaval is about bringing the atmosphere of the world’s best festivals to one place,” Ellenby says.
To ensure expansions are beneficial, Global Village combines data and guest feedback when deciding on improvements. This season, the park will add a third entrance to smooth guest flow. Offering new premium experiences will drive revenue with the addition of beautifully designed cabanas with private butlers. New ticket options include a value ticket to encourage weekday visits and a flexible any day ticket. Online ticket purchases are discounted to encourage a shift to digital ticketing. Meanwhile, the park will add more services and functionality to its app this year.
The sheer scale of Global Village might be a little overwhelming for first-time visitors. “So, last year, we piloted VIP guided tours through our travel trade partners. Those are going to be fully available this year,” Ellenby says. Guests have a choice of three tours: Emirati Discovery reveals Emirati traditions, Culinary Trails whets foodies’ appetites, and Global Village Fully Loaded features the park’s highlights.
Alsuwaidi says “every investment we make and every decision we take is grounded in guest experience. Whether it’s our technological infrastructure or the entertainment lineup, we are laser focused on our goal to bring the very best of the world to our guests. We continue to evolve and adapt the experience economy. Every decision contributes to the larger strategic direction of the organization, building legacy and enhanced customer experience for years to come.”
Power of Partnerships
Global Village demonstrates the benefits of choosing the right team and partners. “They are incredible, and they are the primary reason we set such high standards for family-focused entertainment,” Alsuwaidi says. “From major international organizations like Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! to local entrepreneurs who are starting out, we make sure that the partners we work alongside share our values and passion.”
Global Village can be a gateway to the Dubai market and makes for an ideal testing ground for new concepts. “We have seen many businesses that started as a single stall at Global Village grow to become established names in the region,” Alsuwaidi says.
The steady stream of new partners injects energy into Global Village every season. “We believe growing together is what we do differently, and we will continue doing that as we strive to give our customers more smiles to cherish,” Alsuwaidi says.
The collaborations give guests fresh reasons to return. “It feels like a new place every season, and the intent to revisit is over 90%,” Ellenby says. “But, although we’re changing all the time, we’re careful to balance the great new stuff with people’s favorites. So, for example, Kids Fest is coming back in February, and also AAINJAA, the Colombian percussion group that guests loved last year.”
Global Village “brings extraordinary people and stories from around the world together and redefines how we experience each other and how we experience culture,” she says.
Across Europe and the Middle East, attractions continue to face challenges from rising energy costs and inflation in the wake of the pandemic. Yet, Alsuwaidi remains confident about the future.
“The United Arab Emirates is a land of opportunity, and when faced with a challenge, we see an opportunity to adapt and innovate. We are an agile organization that can quickly respond to any situation. The acceleration of our digital transformation during the pandemic is an example.”
Dubai received a boost from Expo 2020, the latest world’s fair. The attraction reported more than 24 million people visited between October 2021 and March 2022. Global Village collaborated closely with the Expo 2020 team and Alsuwaidi is “extremely proud” of its success. He says that Global Village is looking forward “to welcoming millions of guests from all over the world in season 27 and continuing to support Dubai’s positioning as the world’s most popular tourist destination.”