Dubai Parks and Resorts: beyond leisure
Thirty million square feet, 100 attractions and 50 retail and dining outlets. Dubai doesn’t do construction by half.
In the case of Dubai Parks and Resorts (DPR), there is more to come still. By 2019, a new thrill seeker Six Flags park will open alongside the already up and running Bollywood, Motiongate, LEGOLAND and LEGOLAND Waterpark sites. Fast forward to 2020 and Dubai’s much-publicised ambition to attract 20 million tourists, and this surely will contribute significantly to that target.
Theme parks are relatively new concept to Dubai and much of the Gulf, and the sheer size of DPR means this form of leisure has arrived in the region with a bang. However, it is not just local and international consumers of entertainment who are set to benefit. For the corporate customer, the destination is awash with opportunities to impress guests and reward employees.
Brian Machamer is just one of the management team who has been tirelessly working behind the scenes to get the resort operational. Starting with LEGOLAND in October, all sites have been open since the turn of the year. We caught up with the Vice President of Theme Park Operations in the lobby of Lapita, DPR’s on-site hotel.
“It has been hectic,” he says. “When you plan for one attraction or to open one ride you can look on a calendar and plan every stage, from putting in the structural steel to testing, so you can be fairly sure on pinning down a date. For a project of this size – multiple themes with multiple vendors – picking a date is tough, and it doesn’t always work that way.”
From LEGOLAND to Bollywood
With the groundwork finished and guests starting to enjoy the numerous offerings, Machemer is clearly excited by the potential to attract MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and events).
“We’re taking on a lot of MICE bookings,” he confirms. “We have excellent meeting spaces and you can then head out onto the rides and enjoy the attractions. Even with LEGOLAND, which is not normally geared towards MICE events, we have Miniland which is perfect for things like cocktail receptions, buffets and other events.”
Miniland is a world of LEGO built in record-breaking proportions. The scale model of the Burj Khalifa is 17 metres tall, while the Egyptian Pyramids of Giza have been recreated using more than a million bricks. The Taj Mahal model alone took more than 2,000 hours to build, weighing in at 645 kilos.
The iconic Indian landmark also forms the basis of an impressive venue over in Bollywood Parks. “We’ve already hosted quite a few events,” Machamer says. “Recently we had a large party in Bollywood in front of the Raj Mahal theatre, where 850 guests enjoyed a sit down dinner before heading in to watch the show.”
Outside of the parks in Riverland, numerous open spaces have been deliberately designed to host events, with catering options almost unlimited given the variety of food outlets in the vicinity. At the heart of Riverland lies Encore, an enormous blank canvas of an indoor space that is perfect for hosting large conferences.
Overnight options are a must when hosting such conference events and gatherings, particularly at DPR which is a considerable drive up the giant Sheikh Zayed Road from Dubai International Airport. Judging by the sheer volume of construction equipment visible from our taxi, the vast expanse either side of the eight-lane expressway will largely be filled in years to come, further integrating Dubai Parks and Resorts into the rest of the Emirate.
For now, however, the Lapita Hotel at DPR is the only hotel in town. The 504 Polynesian-themed rooms and suites, including 441 conventional hotel rooms, 60 suites and three villas, serve both visiting families and corporate guests. For the latter, it is an especially vital component.
“For me, attracting businesses is just as important as attracting families as this gets us through the slower periods,” Machamer explains. “During the slower periods when the parks close earlier is an ideal opportunity to maximise MICE bookings. The park might close at 7pm and then re-open for a 5,000-person event until midnight before stopping at Lapita.”
Immaculate as the rooms are, the real ace in the hole at Lapita is its meeting space. Seven large meeting rooms and boardrooms are accompanied by outdoor terraces and private gardens available for hire. For grander scale meetings and conferences, the Tamure Ballroom is a massive 710 square metre space which can be split into three or four separate sections. Somehow this combined 2,200 square metres of meeting space, along with a fully-staffed business centre, is contained within what increasingly feels like a Tardis of a hotel building.
For Machamer, having all bases covered powers his belief in the B2B potential of Dubai Parks and Resorts. “The variety of what we can offer at the resort makes it easy for someone to come in and meet our sales team to find out what can work for them – which park works for them, whether they need the hotel and its conference facilities and so on. We’ll continue to push this as much as we do our day business.”
While all the publicity seen to date appears to be directed towards the leisure-seeking consumer, the corporate appeal might well turn out to be a crucial foundation to any long term success stories.