Rising temperatures in the GCC are driving residents and tourists more and more towards the indoor theme parks and numerous family entertainment centres (FEC). According to the International Expo Consults (IEC), organisers of ‘DEAL 2019’, the largest entertainment & leisure exhibition in the region. There has been increased popularity of FECs in the region and it is evident by their increasing numbers year-after-year.
“The entertainment sector in the GCC, in general, is unlike that around the world. Climatic conditions such as extreme temperatures do not allow year-long operations. Hence the local industry needs to get creative and build for attractions in which the visitor’s exposure to the extreme conditions is kept to a minimal or almost no time period. Since the FECs and the indoor parks are immune to the seasonality aspect, they can afford to keep the park functional throughout the year. This is one of the major reasons for their benefit and popularity in the Middle East,” stated Sharif Rahman, CEO, IEC.
The recent ‘Quality of Life Program 2020’ announcement by Saudi Arabia which detailed an investment of USD35 billion in entertainment and culture could prove to be yet another game changer for the industry. After the recent spate of social reforms which included the revoking of a 35-year old ban on cinemas, the Saudis are aggressively trying to explore opportunities in the entertainment segment. With the new announcements entertainment business in Saudi Arabia is bound to generate growth and its effect will be witnessed in the rest of the GCC countries as well.
The amusement and entertainment industry in the region is showing considerable growth, primarily because of the increased spending capacity of the residents, the increased number of tourists visiting the country and the corresponding availability of top attractions which keep getting updated and refreshed with the latest technology. Dubai, for example, has been named the most visited city in the Middle East region. The city welcomed a total of 15.79 million tourists in 2017 as compared to 14.9 million the year before.
Even at this stage, the industry isn’t just sitting at its achievements and continuously expanding. End of July marks the launch of a Warner Bros theme park in Abu Dhabi. Earlier this year the region witnessed the launch of a fully-fledged Virtual Reality (VR) park in Dubai with multiple fully-immersive experiences that would transport the user to an alternate reality. Similarly, other brands such as Ferrari World and IMG World of adventures are investing heavily in upgrading and extending their parks. IMG Worlds, already the largest indoor theme park in the world is pushing for 2020 for the launch of its second park – IMG World of Legends. Meanwhile, construction of a new Six Flags theme park is underway at the Dubai Parks and Resorts.