Dubai: The Fastest Coaster, Real Growth and DEAL 2013

Last month I attended the Dubai Entertainment, Amusement  and Leisure Show (DEAL) , had a behind the scenes look at the Burj Al Arab’s awesome aquariums  and took a trip down to Abu Dhabi  to see Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and the Emirate’s new waterpark, Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi.

showtime entertainment productions at deal dubai

The trade show, which took place April 23rd to 25th at the World Trade Centre, Dubai was deemed a great success with the organisers, International Expo Consults (IEC), a division of UAE’s multi-faceted business conglomerate – Falak Holding citing “19% (growth) over the previous  year”. 

By Charles Read

Though my general perception was of a show that was slightly bigger in terms of number of exhibitors and floor space (“bigger inflatables” grumbled one wag), the number of attendees was certainly down on last year. There was nonetheless a good feel to the show, with thousands of serious buyers in attendance, so exhibitors seemed happy with the turnout.

The gradual sea change over the last 5 years has been a move towards the coin-op and gaming side of the amusement business, a reflection of the continuing success in the region of the family entertainment centre (FEC). At the show there were fewer theme park designers but more games, more flashing lights  and more noise.

Thoughts from exhthejuice pax and iaapa at deal show dubai 2013ibitors included:

(Note: for an image gallery of the DEAL show click here.)

Paul Kent (Senior Consultant, Electrosonic), “This was a great show to attend, with good networking”.

Pauline Quayle (Director, thejuice films), ”Felt like a successful show more quality than quantity”.

John Davies (Director of UK Operations, Omniticket), “A successful show for us – quality leads confirming continued growth in the region”.

john davies omniticket and amin rashmani water technologyPaul Collimore (Vice President of Sales and Operations , Animalive), “ The networking was fantastic, with the TEA, ALES and 5am Club proving most valuable”.

Simon Foulkes  (Sales and Marketing Director, Rainbow Productions), ” DEAL 2013 has delivered for us and continues to prove its worth”.

Paul Jones (UK and Middle East Sales Manager, Mitsubishi), “We found  quite a few of our printer customers exhibiting and all reported good feedback about potential new business being generated from across the region.

Steve Bell (Business Solutions Architect, Gateway Ticketing Systems, Inc.), ”This was a great show for us and our local partner Prologic First. We  saw a very enthusiastic interest from the upcoming venues”.

Tony Whittaker (MD, Elton Games), “Very happy with the feedback”.

Simon Pickard (MD, Saturn imagineering), “Good show for us with the opportunity to meet with our existing clients in the region and networking with like minded companies”.

Launch of the “ME safety Club”ferrari red cars at ferrari world abu dhabi

A full seminar programme was held in conjunction with the trade show, run by ALES UK and supported by the World Waterpark Association (WWA) and the United Kingdom Trade and Industry (UKTI) . The seminar included sessions on safety, debit card systems and indoor play together with a series of presentations specifically for waterpark professionals.

The Middle East Safety Forum in particular, presented by Alex Nicholls of IMGDubai,   was well received, attracting over 80 attendees, most of whom were operators. This session also saw the launch of the “ME safety Club”, which will enable members to keep up to date with international safety regulations for the safe operation of amusement rides and related leisure equipment.

As with any good trade show, half the reason for attending is to enjoy the various extracurricular activities, the tours and the networking events.  I went along to Atlantis on The Palm with Rick Root president of the WWA and a group of waterpark professionals, including Baris Pakis of Polin Waterparks, Bryan Banner of Wild Wadi and Roger Currie of Water Technology Inc.  to see the hotel’s  Aquaventure waterpark.  Afterwards we were treated to dinner in the gorgeous restaurant. Our generous host was Scott Diesley, general manger.

Fast Cars and Waterslidesferrari world abu dhabi shop toys

Later in the week I visited Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island to see its two world class theme parks, Ferrari world Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi.  The Ferrari themed park, the world’s largest indoor theme park, possesses an iconic and awe inspiring roof of which much has been written, as it was famously expensive and swallowed up a considerable part of the developer’s budget. Seeing it up close is quite an experience. This is, above all, with the roof, the beauty of the cars, the famous prancing stallion and the Ferrari red, an aesthetically pleasing experience.

(For images of both Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas waterworld Abu Dhabi see here)

Inside the park, I was taken aback by how busy it was. On my last visit, 18 months ago, there had been an air of quiet reverence, it  felt more like a museum of cars than a theme park and the few visitors whispered around the attractions as if they were in a gallery, half expecting to be hushed at any time. This trip was a revelation. Though not packed full there were enough people to generate a great atmosphere, there were queues for each ride and the management had clearly done a lot of work to bring the park to life.

To build on this growth in footfall the park manager, Andy Keeling recently announced that Ferrari World Abu Dhabi will from the 4th quarter of this year yas waterworld waterpark abu dhabi operate every day of the week, the operation having been closed on a Mondays to date. This will make it a “making us a 365-day-a-year operation”.  Another Ferrari World Theme Park is planned within two years although its location is a closely guarded secret.

The park also has a hugely successful shop, turning over around €1 million a month. The merchandise on offer includes luxury souvenirs, high-end fashion items and erm, engines.

The world’s fastest roller coaster, Intamin’s Ferrari Rossa (closed on my last visit) was a breathtaking experience. 0 to 150 mph in just under 5 seconds and you really feel the speed. The lack of loops is more than made up for with sheer acceturtle at yas waterworld abu dhabi waterparkleration and the exhilarating smoothness of the ride.

Another attraction new to me was Viaggio in Italia, the “breath-taking virtual aerial voyage across beautiful scenic landscape in Italy”. Named after the iconic 1954 Italian film starring Ingrid Bergman, riders are suspended 14.5 metres above the ground in Ferrari GT  inspired seats and  view the journey over Tuscany and other beauty spots on a giant hemispherical domed screen.  It was a superb film and a gorgeous experience and I quite forgot about the hydraulics and pivoting simulator arms beneath me.

The recently opened Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi, a stone’s throw from Ferrari World but still, in the incessant heat, a taxi ride away, was also refreshingly busy.  The waterpark has an iconic Emirati theme based upon an original story about a princess and a lost pearl and this was nicely done.

The huge and powerful waterslides meant the park and its rides were quite a spectacle themselves.  The details were right too; the signage was good, the layout logical and the variety of both activities and vantage points meant that there was always something to see. Unusually, this was a rainy day in the UAE and the slate grey skies made this Mancunian feel very much at home.