Theme Parks Big Business in Middle East

Abu Dhabi seems to be in love with theme parks, and it looks like the feeling is mutual. Just last year two major theme parks opened their gates to adoring fans, and many more are planning to join in the fun.

If all goes as planned, Sea World should have an outlet up and running by 2022, while companies that design those them parks, like Orlando-based ITEC Entertainment and Falcon’s Creative Group will be highly in-demand.

“It’s a busy place. They’re spending billions literally on their parks and the infrastructure on building up this entertainment mecca,” said Guy Nelson, president of Dynamic Attractions.

Companies with less experience in the Middle East “tend to need more help” said Nelson. His Canada-based company moved a branch to Orlando which is solely focused on themed attractions instead of its usual basic ride system offerings.

“Creating a … high-quality attraction can be elusive to the uninitiated. We’ve got some expertise in being able to do that,” he added.

SeaWorld will be licensing its name while Miral Asset management LLC will take financial responsibility for the actual construction of the park. SeaWorld has explored business opportunities in the Middle East before.

In 2008 the company had announced it would commence work on four new attractions: SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, Aquatica and Discovery Cove, on a whale-shaped man-made island in Dubai. Another project had been announced the year before by Universal Studies. Neither of these two projects ever got off the ground.

“The financial crisis hit those guys just as it hit the whole world economy, but it really hit them hard,” said Jeff Jensen, executive vice president of Orlando-based ITEC Entertainment. “There were a lot of projects that were going on … that just got completely canceled.”

As the Middle East continues to grow as a destination for business and pleasure, we can expect to see more theme parks coming to the region.