A visit to Dubai’s Haunted Hotel

Sunday 04/12/2016
An actor portraying a bellhop tries to draw in guests to the Haunted Hotel at the IMG Worlds of Adventure amusement park in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. (AP)

Dubai - It promises “a long nightmare of distress and despair”. It is designed to be hair-raising rather than somewhere to let your hair down. And it is bring­ing a new dimension to the UAE theme-park landscape by tapping into the human penchant to enjoy being petrified.

It is the Haunted Hotel, the most spine-tingling addition to the IMG Worlds of Adventure in Dubai, an attraction where the family-friend­ly ethos of the world’s largest in­door theme park takes a scary de­tour.

The Haunted Hotel was con­ceived as a key element of the park by its owners, UAE-based Ilyas and Mustafa Galadari Group, so the team behind it is keen not to give too much away about what awaits “our ‘victims’… sorry, we mean our ‘guests’” when they step into its eerie environment. However, after three years of intricate planning, they say they are confident it will have the desired effect of blending fun with fear.

“When we started creating IMG Worlds of Adventure, we wanted to set a new standard of theme-park experience, offering our guests an unparalleled mix of record-break­ing and original rides and attrac­tions,” said Lennard Otto, chief executive officer of IMG Worlds of Adventure, which covers 140,000 sq. metres in Dubailand, has four zones based on characters from Marvel comics and the Cartoon Network and is twice the size of every Disneyland and Disney World resort combined.

“We saw that there was a gap in the market for the Haunted Hotel as nothing on this scale existed in the region,” Otto said. “It is our most terrifying and popular attraction, inviting people to navigate a maze of corridors and seek to escape its petrifying guests. As a fully immer­sive experience, it is like stepping into the world of the worst horror movie — one that you will be dying to escape.”

The terror is, as Otto said, “the ultimate appeal” of the Haunted Hotel, from the sickly stench in the air to the unnerving soundtrack of screams and, of course, the charac­ters who emerge from its fabric. De­signed for those aged 15 and older, its creation has always been central to IMG Worlds of Adventure and an array of attractions that repre­sent the realisation of “a childhood dream and a lifelong vision” of its owners.

“Planning the Haunted Hotel be­gan from the conception of the en­tire theme park itself in mid-2013, when we made the first sketches and the script was written,” said Otto.

“From the brainstorming phases, we continued with the video and projection element, such as when Jack and Scott Donovan — the brothers who manage the Haunted Hotel — are talking to the guests. We are always striving to exceed the expectations of our guests, so we worked with a team of experts from all over the world to create the unique set and had the costumes specially designed by a company in Hong Kong.”

Differing from rival ghostly at­tractions such as the hotel in Dis­ney’s Twilight Zone Tower of Ter­ror in that it is a walk-through experience, rather than a ride, the Haunted Hotel adds an extra touch of realism by enlisting live actors to greet — or terrify — guests as they brave its corridors.

“We’ve already been over­whelmed by its success at both na­tional and international level,” Otto said, “but we must emphasise that the Haunted Hotel is currently a key attraction only — there are no overnight stays yet.”

Unveiled to the public in August, IMG Worlds of Adventure’s zones — Marvel, Cartoon Network, Lost Valley and IMG Boulevard — feature a super-fast roller coaster weav­ing outside the building, with even more twists and turns than Formula Rossa at Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World, as well as 25 retail stores, 28 food and beverage outlets and space for 4,500 cars.

Tickets cost about $82 for adults and $68 for children and can be pur­chased online at IMGworlds.com. They provide all-day access to more than 20 rides and attrac­tions, live shows and a 5D cinema experience.