Visitors less than thrilled with Dubai’s largest theme park

Updated 20 September 2017
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Visitors less than thrilled with Dubai’s largest theme park

DUBAI: Ticket prices, accessibility, and a lack of “wow” factor have been highlighted by visitors as some of the key challenges that Dubai’s largest theme park destination must address.
The management company behind the 13.2 billion dirhams ($3.5 billion) Dubai Parks and Resorts said they are confident a new masterplan focused on drawing more visitors from the UAE and the wider region will kickstart the attraction as it seeks to bounce back from reporting first-half losses of more than half a billion dirhams.
A series of discounts and deals aimed at increasing footfall have been unveiled by the attraction’s operator DXB Entertainments (DXBE) in recent months, with the UK, China, India, Russia and Germany seen as key international visitor markets.
And as the destination’s new approach takes shape, visitors have told Arab News where they feel it needs to improve if it is to achieve this goal.
Lebanese visitor Nicole Hammoudian was surprised by the low number of visitors when she took her two daughters, aged 12 and 8, to Dubai Parks and Resorts this month.
“To be honest, it’s very, very quiet – even if it is low season, there are absolutely no lines,” she said.
Fatima Saad, also from Lebanon, offered several reasons for this.
“The food inside is phenomenally expensive,” she said. “We are two families traveling together, so it was expensive to eat inside.”
Although one of her daughters, 11-year-old Zaina, said she had enjoyed the Madagascar ride in the Hollywood-inspired Motiongate area of the park, Ms Saad felt the park in general lacked a buzz. “There were no lines for the rides. With crowds you get enthusiasm from other people and an atmosphere — and we didn’t get that,” she explained.
“It needs more people to make it an experience. If the prices were lower, perhaps more people would come.”
Expatriate Eman Ezzeldin agreed, saying that while she and her son had enjoyed the park when they visited in July, the tickets were “a bit overpriced”, while Yvette Abziza, a 34-year-old Filipino, explained that, owing to the park’s relative unpopularity, her fast-track tickets were unnecessary.
As DXBE seeks to entice more local and regional visitors, UAE expats also gave some unenthusiastic reviews of the park.
Gavin McKessock, a Scot now living in Dubai, said he tried to go to Riverland Dubai — which forms the entryway to the three main theme parks of the 25 million square feet attraction: Bollywood Parks, Legoland Dubai, and Legoland Water Park and Motiongate — but the experience of entering was so frustrating that he changed his plans.
“After going to the car park near the entrance to Riverland and finding it was blocked off, we were directed to the main resort car park on the opposite side of the resort,” he said.
“When we eventually reached it, we arrived at a toll gate and were told, if we wanted to go to the restaurants we would need to pay 20 dirhams to leave our car in a massive, deserted car park, then take a tram with no air conditioning from there.
“We did a U-turn and went elsewhere. I’d be furious if I was paying hundreds of dirhams to take my family there for the day, with entrance fees, meals, souvenirs, and then be charged 20 dirhams to park.”
For Sunita Dutta, an Indian electrical engineer living in Abu Dhabi who visited Dubai Parks and Resorts with her husband and two children, the reality simply failed to live up to expectations.
“I went to Bollywood Park, and while it was a good one-off entertainment experience, it did not wow me at all,” she said. “We had expected something more.
“It was almost deserted and the novelty factor between the various shows and slides was hugely missing. You see one, you have more or less seen them all. For a theme park to rise to Disneyland status, there needs to be a connection with people — parades, activities. Here, there was no feeling of being overwhelmed.”
While other visitors had good things to say about discounts and standards of service, they were still quick to register their surprise at the low crowd numbers.
Ahmed Hussain Bin Esa, General Manager of Theme Parks at DXBE, said Dubai Parks and Resorts recorded over a million visits in the first half of 2017 and generated 86.5 million dirhams in revenue.
“Our primary focus, since our official opening in December 2016, was to establish a market leading asset with a quality entertainment proposition that has wide appeal, particularly with a family audience,” he told Arab News.
“For the remainder of 2017 and into 2018, our primary strategy for Dubai Parks and Resorts is to drive visitor volumes, focusing on repeat visitation from residents and from regional markets, including KSA.
“Dubai is well-positioned as a family-friendly leisure and entertainment destination and we hope to serve the people living within a four-to-eight-hour flight-time from Dubai.
“We know that Dubai has growing appeal across the globe, and for DXB Entertainments it is important to prioritize and consider markets in close proximity to Dubai and those where theme parks have great appeal.”
In August, it was also announced that Dubai Parks and Resorts was revising annual pass offerings to include competitive pricing, special offers and additional discounts to drive visitor volumes.
“To make Dubai Parks and Resorts more accessible to families and guests, we have introduced offers such as the annual membership, which has been created to give guests the chance to experience more rides, attractions and shows than anywhere else in the Middle East,” said Bin Esa. “Furthermore, we have recently announced a special rate on tickets for GCC nationals and residents.”
The 414,400 visitors Dubai Parks and Resorts recorded in the second quarter was, according to DXBE, an expected reduction due to seasonality.
“Visitor numbers will be shared in the upcoming quarterly report to Dubai Financial Market (DFM),” said Bin Esa. “However, we received great feedback from our guests on our recent offers, particularly the annual membership, which has proven to be immense value for money.”
From Sept. 1, tickets that allow access to one of the three theme parks cost 235 dirhams ($64) for a standard ticket rate, or 165 dirhams ($45) for a GCC resident rate.
Bollywood Parks Dubai is slightly cheaper, with 175 dirhams ($48) standard ticket rate or 95 dirhams ($26) for GCC residents.
But despite the reduced ticket prices, the park may still feel expensive for some tourists from Europe.
A day pass for an advanced ticket booking for one of the UK’s most popular theme parks — Alton Towers — costs £32 ($43) for adults or £27.50 ($37) for children.


New Zealand to conduct own assessment of Huawei equipment risk

Updated 54 min 15 sec ago
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New Zealand to conduct own assessment of Huawei equipment risk

  • Huawei faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government
  • Several Western countries had restricted Huawei’s access to their markets

WELLINGTON: New Zealand will independently assess the risk of using China’s Huawei Technologies in 5G networks, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday after a report suggested that British precautions could be used by other nations.
Huawei, the world’s biggest producer of telecoms equipment, faces intense scrutiny in the West over its relationship with the Chinese government and US-led allegations that its equipment could be used by Beijing for spying.
No evidence has been produced publicly and the firm has repeatedly denied the allegations, which have led several Western countries to restrict Huawei’s access to their markets.
The Financial Times reported on Sunday that the British government had decided it can mitigate the risks arising from the use of Huawei equipment in 5G networks. It said Britain’s conclusion would “carry great weight” with European leaders and other nations could use similar precautions.
New Zealand’s intelligence agency in November rejected an initial request from telecommunications services provider Spark to use 5G equipment provided by Huawei.
At the time, the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) gave Spark options to mitigate national security concerns over the use of Huawei equipment, Ardern said on Monday.
“The ball is now in their court,” she told a weekly news conference.
Ardern said New Zealand, which is a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network that includes the United Kingdom and the United States, would conduct its own assessment.
“I would expect the GCSB to apply with our legislation and our own security assessments. It is fair to say Five Eyes, of course, share information but we make our own independent decisions,” she said.
Huawei New Zealand did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Spark said it was in discussions with GCSB officials.
“We are working through what possible mitigations we might be able to provide to address the concerns raised by the GCSB and have not yet made any decision on whether or when we should submit a revised proposal to GCSB,” Spark spokesman Andrew Pirie said in an emailed statement.
The Huawei decision, along with the government’s tougher stance on China’s growing influence in the Pacific, has some politicians and foreign policy analysts worried about potential strained ties with a key trading partner.
Ardern’s planned first visit to Beijing has faced scheduling issues, and China last week postponed a major tourism campaign in New Zealand days before its launch.
Ardern said her government’s relationship with China was strong despite some complex issues.
“Visits are not a measure of the health of a relationship they are only one small part of it,” she said, adding that trade and tourism ties remained strong.