Dubai ‘needs a Disneyland’ to boost tourism

Dubai needs an entertainment resort on the size and scale of
Disneyland if it is to attract a larger slice of the global tourism pie, the
president of UAE’s BinHendi Enterprises said.

The UAE’s trade and tourism hub must create an anchor
attraction to push it into the league of destinations such as the US and UK, and
mark Dubai as the region’s top holiday spot, Mohi-Din BinHendi said.  

“We need an entertainment anchor for the family, something
like Disney but not Disney. If we have a project like this in Dubai, we have an
anchor for the whole of the world,” he told Arabian Business. “There is a big
gap between Euro Disney and Tokyo Disney. There is a craving for an
entertainment anchor [in this region].”

The UAE plans to attract 15 million tourists by 2020 under
efforts to diversify its petrodollar-driven economy. The capital is spending
billions on visitor attractions such as the Yas and Saadiyat island
developments, in a bid to establish itself as a holiday destination.


BinHendi said he was in talks to create a theme park project
with Star Wars director George Lucas and US engineers Bechtel before the global
financial crisis. The resort, ‘The Magic World of Dubai’, was to be linked by monorail
to Dubai Airport but the plans were scrapped when the financial backers pulled
out after the credit crunch, BinHendi said.

A key barrier to Dubai creating its own family entertainment
resort would be a lack of capital, he said. “Today we attract a lot of tourists
who come here to enjoy the sun, the beaches and the hotels, but we are not an
exotic destination. We are not like Fiji or Hawaii. This is what is missing in
Dubai. If I had the finance I would do this project as one of the leading
projects in this part of the world,” he said.

In Dubai, the sprawling entertainment resort Dubailand was
placed on hold in 2008 after the credit crunch saw the emirate’s real estate market
collapse.

The resort was designed to be twice the size of Walt Disney
World Resort and boasted tie-ups with Universal Studios, Legoland and US theme
park giant Six Flags.

The developer behind the AED335bn project said this week
that it is in talks to agree four major deals by the end of the year with
entertainment partners.

“Dubailand is currently in the process of evaluating new
projects,” said Khalid Al Malik, CEO of Dubai Properties Group (DPG).

DPG is “negotiating a couple of [major new deals] this year…
So we want at least two to four to be announced this year, as much as we can. They
are relating to the kind of designs we had for Dubailand at the start; it could
be tourism, themes of the kind of entertainment stuff we want.”

Jordan’s Rubicon Group last week announced it had signed a
deal with US media giants Paramount and CBS to launch a $1bn theme park and
resort in the coastal town of Aqaba.

The 184-acre Red Sea Astrarium will include a Star
Trek-themed attraction inspired by the 2009 film Star Trek, which is being
developed by Paramount Recreation.