Dubai brings Lego to life
Dubai - Already home to the world’s tallest tower and hundreds of hotels of all shapes and sizes, Dubai is upping the tourism ante with a Legoland theme park, the first in the Middle East and the seventh worldwide.
The park is to open in 2016. It is expected to add more flavour to the city’s smorgasbord of visitor accommodations with the reported Lego-themed hotel, which was announced in May by a senior executive at Dubai Parks and Resorts (DPR), the leisure and entertainment arm of state-owned developer Meraas Holding.
Media reports quoting Paul La France, chief projects officer of DPR, said the hotel would most likely open in 2018 as part of Legoland Dubai’s expansion strategy.
Lego, the Danish toymaker famous for its colourful building bricks, is considered the fastest-growing toy company in the world. In 2014, it posted net profits of $1.05 billion, up more than 15% from a year prior.
The company has a robust brand equity that spans toys, video games, theme parks, hotels and a blockbuster movie, which netted $468.8 million globally in 2014.
But just as Dubai residents prepared to shout “Awesome!”, DPR clarified that plans for a Lego-themed hotel in Dubai have yet to be finalised.
“As part of our ongoing relationship with Merlin Entertainments plc [which operates Legoland parks], we are in early discussions about a possible Legoland hotel,” the company spokesman said. “We hope that we can have a Legoland hotel as part of the destination but there is no agreement in place.”
The spokesman added that the only hotel confirmed to be built in DPR’s 2.35-million-sq.-metre leisure complex is Lapita, a 503-room Polynesian-themed property to be managed by Marriott.
The construction of Legoland Dubai and other amusement parks in the emirate strengthens the argument for the opening of themed hotels in the UAE as a way to lure a wider segment of travellers.
According to a recent report on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) hotels market by Colliers International, combining parks with lodging options can generate significantly larger returns than theme parks alone.
“By having visitors stay within the vicinity, the theme park destination can extend visitors’ length of stay significantly, as well as ensure the tendency of repeat visits,” the report said.
Analysts at Colliers stressed that despite the number of amusement and entertainment centres operating or under construction in MENA, the concept of having lodging facilities within or close to the destination remains underdeveloped.
When it opens in the fourth quarter of 2016, Legoland Dubai, which covers an area of approximately 280,000 sq. metres, will join Lego-themed parks in Billund, Denmark; Windsor, England; Carlsbad, California; Günzburg, Germany; Winter Haven, Florida; and Johor, Malaysia.
Geared towards families with children aged 2-12, Legoland Dubai will feature a themed water park; more than 40 interactive rides, shows and attractions; as well as 15,000 structures made from more than 60 million Lego bricks.
Legoland Dubai will be part of DPR’s $2.86-billion development in the Jebel Ali area, which will feature two other amusement parks: the Hollywood-inspired Motiongate and the Indian cinema-themed Bollywood Parks.
In its first year of full operation, DPR expects the parks to collectively attract 6.7 million ticketed visits, helping Dubai achieve its goal of welcoming 20 million visitors by 2020 and increasing tourism’s contribution to the economy. Last year, Dubai hotels hosted more than 11.6 million guests, a year-on-year increase of 5.6%.
The theme parks will be important employment generators for the emirate, contributing 5,000 jobs in the tourism sector, both directly and indirectly.
“The building of the resort is a hugely ambitious project — it is the first time globally that three theme parks have ever been opened at the same time, along with a resort and dedicated retail and hospitality zone.
As such we will need the workforce to both build and operate it,” the spokesman said.
DPR has 27 contractors with a total of 6,500 staff working on site to build the resort. Once the theme parks open, resort management will require significant staffing, from operations and park staff to marketing teams, performers, security, chefs and servers.