Dubai Parks and Resorts refocuses on the ‘right’ customers

Dubai Parks and Resorts’ decision to scrap its Bollywood Parks theme park and replace it with the football-focused Real Madrid World is the latest change it has implemented over the past two years to turn its attractions around.

The strategy is part of management’s shift in focus, from satisfying investors to attracting the “right” visitors. 

The park’s target audience has also changed from India to Europe.

India was one of the markets that never turned out in big numbers for Dubai Parks and Resorts over the years.

On the other hand, Legoland – a consistent performer – is looking to tap into China and the CIS bloc of former Soviet countries to broaden its visitor demographic.

The once-listed theme park company said that performance had been positive over the past two years. It went private in 2021 after it was forced to delist from Dubai’s stock market because of a lack of new funding and the impact of Covid-19. 

2020 visitor numbers and revenues were down 69 percent and 71 percent respectively compared to 2019.

A large reason behind this was that when the parks opened to the public in 2016 many of the promised attractions, including Dreamworks and Hunger Games, were not ready. Six Flags, which was meant to be “coming soon”, never opened at all. 

“Once doubt enters the equation, it becomes cancer and there are very limited cures for that,” said Robert Niles, founder and editor of the website Theme Park Insider. 

Pricing strategies were also a “straight-up miss”, Niles said. For instance, an annual pass for all parks cost AED2,495 ($680) when it opened. This was then changed to AED525 ($140) within a year and is now AED995 ($270). 

Dubai Parks and Resorts has also introduced discounts and bundle offers that make it more affordable for families. 

Competition, not just from the neighboring Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, which is home to Ferrari World and Warner Bros theme park, but also from Saudi Arabian theme parks such as Qiddiya is adding pressure on Dubai’s amusement parks. 

Bollywood Parks Dubai is being replaced by the football-focused Real Madrid World

Some suggest the UAE and Saudi Arabia together could rival Orlando in Florida as the global capital of theme parks, but Tim Harrison-Jones, general manager of the Legoland Dubai Resort, questioned this.

“I’m not sure we’ll see people going to Qiddiya and then coming to the theme parks here,” he said.

“There is a vast space of time you’d need to do that versus doing the golden triangle in Florida of Miami, Tampa, and Orlando, where it is a two-hour drive between the theme parks.”

None of the region’s theme parks have so far made it to the EMEA Global Attractions Attendance Report, which is dominated by European parks, as analysts believe that the message of the UAE being a family destination has not yet been out. 

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