Hot on the heels of popular BlooloopLIVE events in London and Hong Kong, Blooloop held its first conference in Dubai in partnership with the DEAL Show.
Speakers from across the attractions industry shared their insights with a packed audience from the UAE and beyond, eager to learn more about the region’s trends, projects and opportunities.
by Ella Baskerville.
The event was made possible due to the generosity of sponsors: Polin Waterparks (Platinum), Holovis, The Deluxe Group, and The Juice (Gold) and Attraktion! and Green 4 Solutions (Silver) and took place on April 18th 2016 in the Al Ain meeting rooms in the Dubai World Trade Centre.
To see a gallery of images of the event please click here.
Mr. Abdul Rahman Falaknaz, Chairman of Falak Holding LLC, CEO of the DEAL Organisers IEC, kicked off proceedings by highlighting the importance of Dubai and the UAE to the attractions industry.
Eng. Amina Ahmed Mohammed, Director of Dubai Accreditation Department and Eng. Mohammed Mahmoud Hasan, Senior Accreditation Engineer both from the Dubai Municipality welcomed delegates and explained the accreditation process needed for attractions operating in Dubai.
The first session, ‘Transformation of the UAE into a Leading L&E Destination: Orlando 2.0’ gave a snapshot of the industry in Dubai and the UAE. Philip Shepherd (above), Middle East Hospitality and Leisure Leader at PWC, introduced the market, key drivers for success and trends for the future. This was complemented by the second speaker, Phil Taylor (below), Managing Director at Team Leisure LLC, who gave attendees a whirlwind guide to the many existing attractions in Dubai and the UAE and the major upcoming projects to watch.
After a short coffee break, the second session, “Ground Breaking”, showcased some of the region’s most remarkable new projects. Douglas Trueblood (below), Director of Marketing at Dubai Parks and Resorts revealed details of the new development and whetted apetites for what is in store when it opens in October. With three parks, a waterpark, a hotel and an entertainment area opening simultaneously, it is a development on a breathtaking scale.
Next up was Lennard Otto (below), CEO of IMG Worlds of Adventure – the World’s Largest Indoor Theme Park. Attendees saw fantastic footage of the park and heard about the challenges faced when designing it – from food and beverage to architecture.
Amr AlMadani (below), Executive Director of Mishkat Interactive Center for Atomic & Renewable Energy, was the next speaker, and brilliantly shared his passion and enthusiasm for science communication. Amr spoke about the great work the centre does in terms of outreach and encouraging young people to take up the STEM subjects..
Muna Al Dhaheri (below), Chief Officer of Conservation and Education at The Al Ain Zoo, showcased the zoo’s ambitious expansion plans. She explained that the new project focuses on displaying the zoo’s collection of African animals in an open environment which includes a safari drive, billed as the world’s largest man-made safari.
With an enthusiastic mix of attendees from developers and investors to operators and suppliers catering for all vertical sectors of the industry, there were great opportunities for guests to network at lunch and throughout the day.
The third session of the day, ‘Transformation’, focused on enhancements to existing projects.
First up was George Walker, Creative Director for Ferrari World and VP of Creative Development at Dynamic Attractions. Discussing the ‘before and after’ of the recent Phase 2 developments at Ferrari World, guests were taken through the creative and decision-making processes involved, including insights into the new rides Benno’s Great Race and record-breaking coaster Flying Aces.
At this point, the conference changed direction to focus on the museum sector. Manal Ataya (above), Director General of the Sharjah Museums, shared highlights from her work managing the group’s 16 museums as well as the challenges the organisation faces in developing and expanding its portfolio of attractions.
Silvio Liedtke, COO of Landmark Leisure, the FEC giant in the Middle East, immediately engaged guests by giving them 1 minute to solve a puzzle hidden in a goodie bag under their seat; ably demonstrating that sometimes simple options are the most fun. Silvio also talked about the areas of the FEC world with the most revenue potential as well as highlighting the importance of hiring the right people and looking after them well.
The last speaker of session three was Chris Perry, host of Travel Channel’s Epic Attractions and VP of Strategic Relationships at WhiteWater West. Using clips from his TV series, where he travelled for 6 weeks filming at the best attractions around the world, Chris explained how operators could make their park more ‘epic’ by adding little touches and giving careful thought to who their customers are and what they want.
Evolution of an Attraction
The final panel session from Jean Marc Bled, General Manager of Leisure & Entertainment at Meraas, and Chris Davis, Managing Partner of ZoOceanarium focused on ‘Meraas: The Evolution of the Green Planet’. The new development, part of City Walk, is a giant cylindrical bio-dome housing a mini-ecosystem of selected plants and animals, which is intended to inform and educate guests about the wonders of nature, specifically the rainforest. Jean Marc spoke about the decisions around the development of the project, while Chris explained why the team chose to include certain species and the challenges involved in getting some of them to Dubai.
After the conference, guests were invited to the evening reception held at the Novhotel poolside, and generously hosted by the UKTI. Her Majesty’s Consul General – British Embassy in Dubai, Paul Fox, welcomed guests and spoke about the importance of the attractions industry for UK trade. The informal atmosphere was a welcome wind down to the end of the event.
Blooloop’s next event will be BlooloopLIVE Asia in Shanghai on Monday 13th June 2016, the day before the Asian Attraction Expo begins. The event will be free to attend, and will educate attendees on everything they need to know about the state of the industry in Asia.
Blooloop LIVErpool is our UK event taking place on Wednesday 29th June 2016 as part of the International Festival of Business. For further info on Blooloop events, please email Ella on email@example.com.
The DEAL Show 2016
by Charles Read
The DEAL Show was a chance for us to catch up with clients and colleagues across the industry. We were delighted to attend the DEAL Gala Dinner on the Wednesday night before relaxing at the Stefan Zwanzger – The Theme Park Guy – Party at the Ibis Hotel. On Thursday evening, we were fortunate enough to be given a tour of the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo where we encountered a rather tactile Giant Pacific Octopus and marvelled at the 80 year old, 6-metre saltwater crocodile. We also met the (Asian short clawed) otters, thanks to aquarist and diver Aaron Morgan Jupp, our host for the evening.
We were also given a behind-the-scenes tour of the new Meraas developments at City Walk. Chris Davis, ZoOceanrium, showed us around the Green Planet. The beautiful design of the tree structure and the thought that has gone into every decision involved in the creative process really blew us away. The centrepiece of the attraction is the huge (man-made) tree. in time this will become enveloped with orchids, ferns and bromeliads and the roots of the tiny strangler fig in the canopy will eventually reach the ground and then start to form a mesh around the central tree. It will be amazing to see this environment develop.
We were also able to walk through Hub Zero, Meraas’ new indoor theme park and gaming centre, which is still under construction. Catering to the new generation of gamers and thrill seekers, Hub Zero is a unique concept based on gaming IPs including Plants versus Zombies , Resident Evil and Dragon Age, the latter featuring a huge dragon emerging above visitors heads, a little like the Howarts dragon at the Universal Parks.
Finally, we saw Mattel Play! Town which is now open to the public, and again the attention to detail was fantastic; activities encouraged kids to share and work as a team as well as allowing parents to relax and play alongside them in a safe and fun environment.
Down at the (Al Ain) Zoo
On my final day, I took a trip out to Al Ain Zoo, inspired to do so by Muna Al Dhareri‘s presentation during the conference. I was met by Mark Craig, Director of Life Science, who gave me an overview of the zoo and its expansion plans and treated me to dates (to be eaten in odd numbers) and the local coffee, which is particular to specific tribes and families.
The zoo specialises in animals of the desert and there was plenty to see, including a good variety of goats and antelope together with sleek and Arabic leopards, spotted hyena and hunting dogs. The enclosures were huge and he landscaping and views inspirational.
The recently opened safari (the world’s largest at 217 hectares) is a remarkable addition to the zoo and, with land to spare and a hotel on the cards, the zoo seems set to develop and expand both its footprint and its conservation initiatives.
I then met Stephen McKeown, Director of The Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Center, who showed me around the centre and its exhibits. The building itself is quite something. Billed as the UAE’s first “sustainable building”, it is the first to achieve a Five Pearl rating from Estidama and a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design platinum certification.
It has five interactive galleries: Sheikh Zayed Tribute Hall, Abu Dhabi Desert Over Time, Abu Dhabi’s Living World, Looking to the Future and People of the Desert. The interior was pristine; whites and blues and water, beautuful and minimalist – more Serpentine Gallery than a zoo.
Back in the UK and reflecting on a busy week in the UAE, it occurred to me that despite the outlandish ambition, the marketing hyperbole and the grandiose claims, the debacle of Dubailand is well behind us and the tone in Dubai is very much more measured. Sure, there is ostentation on a world-class scale, but beneath this there is very real change. The attractions are being built, they are opening – some even on time – and for the first year in almost a decade of visiting the UAE, I thought it would make for a really great family holiday. It is looking more and more like Orlando 2.0.