26 Sep 2021 World leisure: news, training & property
Sign up for FREE ezine

Attractions Management
2018 issue 2

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Sultan Al Dhaheri


Sultan Al Dhaheri

Slowly but surely, Abu Dhabi has developed its attractions offer, helping the emirate on the way to achieving its wider tourism ambitions. With another billion-dollar park opening in July, we caught up with the Department of Culture and Tourism to find out more about the strategy

Alice Davis
Sultan Al Dhaheri is an executive director with Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism
Ferrari World opened on Yas Island in 2010 and is home to Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest coaster
Abu Dhabi shutterstock
Ferrari World opened on Yas Island in 2010 and is home to Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest coaster
Yas Waterworld, located on Yas Island, welcomed over half a million guests last year
Foster + Partners design for the upcoming Zayed National Museum

Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT), like other government-run tourism departments in the region, is tasked with a mission to promote the destination to foreign visitors in line with long-term strategies designed to help relieve its economic dependence on oil and gas.

“We are targeting an increase in the number of visitors to Abu Dhabi from 4.4 million to 8.5 million visitors by 2021,” says Sultan Al Dhaheri, executive director of the tourism sector at the DCT. “To achieve this we are working hard to continue to develop Abu Dhabi as an inspiring destination where visitors can experience cultural authenticity, diverse natural offerings, dynamic family-leisure entertainment and ambitious business opportunities.”

The Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, published in 2006, sets out a mandate to secure the future financial success of the emirate. Among those sectors identified as enablers for economic growth are the development of the private sector, healthcare, education, transport and infrastructure, in order to create a more dynamic economy, boost social development and create job opportunities for the growing, predominantly young, population. In the report, 12 sectors signal investment opportunities, including energy, petrochemicals, aviation, financial services, telecommunications, media and tourism.

Reaching out to international partners is also a major part of the Economic Vision, including efforts to make it easier for foreigners to do business with the emirate.

“Tourism is recognised as one of 12 ‘engines’ of economic diversification, and a strategic pillar in the emirate’s 2030 Economic Vision,” says Al Dhaheri. “We are working hard to support private sector entrepreneurs in the creation of an innovative tourism product to create a sustainable tourism sector.

“When it comes to attractions, we work very closely with the developers to enhance their messaging and to promote and cross-promote their offerings via our global network and overseas offices; but the operating of the attractions is entirely left to the private entities,” he says.

Something for everyone
There are various ways to help the market evolve, including promoting Abu Dhabi as a destination to different nationalities, and leisure and business travellers alike.

“DCT Abu Dhabi together with its stakeholders coordinates international promotions across a wide geographic base,” says Al Dhaheri. “We have six Tier 1 markets: the GCC [the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf], the US, the UK, India, Germany and China. However, the wide variety and scope of the offerings in the emirate mean we can appeal to a wide demographic of tourists from a wide spectrum of international visitors and the entire gamut of age ranges. We think we have something for everyone.”

The DCT sends delegates to a range of trade fairs globally and organises promotional roadshows, which is part of a drive to raise awareness and tap into emerging markets like China, India, the South American countries, and Russia and the former Soviet states.

“In the business arena we actively pursue conventions and conferences to host here in the emirate, with major successes in bringing notable events here,” he says. “We also undertake joint marketing initiatives and proactive press engagement in key markets to stimulate demand for the destination. Additionally, we have forged strategic partnerships with Etihad Airways in their priority markets.

“On the ground we are also actively encouraging the development of small and medium enterprises and encouraging ‘emiratisation’ to facilitate sector expansion,” he says, referring to a new government policy aimed at helping more UAE nationals gain training and employment in the private sector.

Yas Island
Alongside Abu Dhabi’s cultural heritage, beach resorts and sunny weather, its burgeoning attractions and leisure offer has doubtless helped boost interest in the emirate as a holiday destination. Since the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision was released, world-class attractions have opened, namely, Ferrari World in 2010 and Yas Waterworld in 2013. Both are located on Yas Island, a manmade, multi-purpose leisure, shopping and entertainment centre that marked a $40bn investment.

Ferrari World – home to Formula Rossa, hitting 240kph, the world’s fastest rollercoaster – welcomes over 1 million visitors a year. Yas Waterworld was the 10th most visited waterpark in the EMEA region in 2017, attracting 550,000 guests. And these big-hitting Yas Island parks are about to be joined by another, with the Miral-developed Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi opening on 25 July (see below). Yas Island attracts 25 million visitors a year, with Miral predicting an increase to 30 million with the opening of the new park.

“Attractions are one of the key components of our tourism strategy,” says Al Dhaheri. “Yas Island will see the opening of the highly-anticipated Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi and, looking further ahead, SeaWorld Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open in 2022, the first SeaWorld outside the US.

“We are proud to be a family-friendly destination and as we continue to increase our proposition, we make sure that each component adds to rather than replicates the attractions we already have online. Warner Bros Abu Dhabi and SeaWorld are both perfect examples of us identifying potential additions and strategically working to bring those to Abu Dhabi.”

Saadiyat Island
Beyond theme parks and waterparks, Abu Dhabi takes its cultural offer seriously. Developed by the Tourism Authority-held Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC), Saadiyat Island is set to become the emirate’s cultural heart – and not in half measures. The $600m Louvre Abu Dhabi, designed by architect Jean Nouvel, opened there in November 2017. A 30-year deal was signed between Abu Dhabi’s and France’s governments, with extra costs including a $525m fee to be associated with the Louvre name and more than $700m for loans of artworks, exhibitions and expertise. Early analysis points to tourism increasing in the months following the museum’s launch.

“We have made sure that our touristic and cultural assets offer something for every possible demographic and nationality,” says Al Dhaheri.

Saadiyat Island, situated 500 metres off the coast, is only partly completed, and there are long-term plans for further cultural facilities designed by equally famous architects. A Guggenheim Museum has been designed by Frank Gehry, but construction is yet to start. Zayed National Museum, which signed a partnership contract with the British Museum, has been designed by Foster + Partners, and preparatory work has started. Zaha Hadid’s performing arts centre, consisting of a music hall, concert hall, opera house and theatre, was unveiled in 2007, but is currently on hold.

Events and occasions
Al Dhaheri adds that another area where the emirate is expanding is the special events sector, with a new initiative launched that helps fund event organisers looking at Abu Dhabi as a host location. With more than 800 events currently on the calendar, including the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Grand Prix, the Abu Dhabi Food Festival, Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship and the Abu Dhabi Classics international concert season, the DCT is offering incentives to companies who would be interested in doing similar.

“Led by the DCT’s events bureau, the Advantage Events initiative is being introduced to boost the emirate’s appeal as a thriving tourism destination by funding leisure and entertainment events driven by the private sector to support existing businesses, and also encourage new events to be introduced. In addition to this, we leverage our global network as well as our overseas offices to reinforce the message that Abu Dhabi is a true destination of distinction, with something extraordinary here for everyone.”

Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi

Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi, which signifies an investment of $1bn and is set to open on 25 July, will feature six immersive lands across its 153,000sqm location on Yas Island.

The worlds of DC Comics will make up two of the six worlds, with Metropolis and Gotham City – homes to Superman and Batman, respectively – designed to draw fans of the comic book franchise to the attraction.
The next world, Cartoon Junction, will bring together popular Warner Bros characters such as Bugs Bunny and Scooby-Doo and place them in a stylised cartoon world immersing guests in animation.

For fans of Hannah-Barbera’s Flintstones, a recreation of Bedrock will make up the fourth world, while the Dynamite Gulch zone will feature both Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera characters.

The final part of the park will be Warner Bros Plaza – an area celebrating Hollywood and telling the rich history of the Warner Bros brand.

Look out for: Superman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, The Flash

• Justice League: Warworld Attacks (5D dark ride)
• Green Lantern: Galactic Odyssey (flying theatre)
• Superman 360: Battle for Metropolis (3D attraction)
• Teen Titans Training Academy (play area)

Cartoon Junction
Look out for: Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny, Scooby Doo

• Tom and Jerry: Swiss Cheese Spin (spinning coaster)
• Scooby-Doo: The Museum of Mysteries (dark ride)
• Cartoon Junction Carousel (carousel)
• Acme Factory (play area)
• Ricochet Racin’ with Taz (kiddie car ride)

Look out for: Fred, Wilma, Pebbles, Barney, Betty, Bamm Bamm

• The Flintstones Bedrock River Adventure (river ride)

Gotham City
Look out for: Batman, The Joker, The Riddler, Scarecrow, Catwoman, Harley Quinn

• Batman: Knight Flight (motion base ride)
• Scarecrow Scare Raid (flight simulator)
• The Riddler Revolution (spinning ride)
• The Joker Funhouse (walkthrough)

Dynamite Gulch
Look out for: Wile E. Coyote, Road Runner, The Jetsons, Yosemite Sam

• Fast and Furry-ous (inverted steel coaster)
• The Jetsons Cosmic Orbiter (kiddie ride)
• Marvin the Martian Crater Crashers (bumper cars)


Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi has cost $1bn

The DC Comics-inspired Gotham City zone
Louvre Abu Dhabi

The long-awaited Louvre Abu Dhabi opened to the public on 11 November, following a string of setbacks lasting more than decade. Designed by French architect Jean Nouvel, the museum’s domed roof is an artwork itself, with eight layers of steel made up of 7,850 patterned perforations that use the sun to create an intricate and ever-changing pattern on the building’s interior.

Water is a key part of Nouvel’s building, with a system based on ancient Arabic engineering being used to allow water to flow between the outer areas of the museum and to the galleries inside, giving the illusion that it is floating on the water.

The museum’s collection – its curation one of the reasons for the lengthy delays – consists of 600 works of art, including 300 loaned by 13 French museums for the inaugural year. The remaining collection has been sourced from all over the world, with pieces spanning the entirety of human existence, from prehistoric objects to commissioned modern works.

In addition to 23 permanent galleries, the museum includes exhibition space, a children’s museum and restaurant/café.


Louvre Abu Dhabi is located on Saadiyat Island

Louvre Abu Dhabi is located on Saadiyat Island

Originally published in Attractions Management 2018 issue 2

Published by Leisure Media Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385 | Contact us | About us | © Cybertrek Ltd