One of the beachfronts in the UAE could be host to a mega-scale water theme park if an Australian company has its way.
“The UAE’s leisure and entertainment industry is forecast to reach 45 million visitors a year by 2021 … and we are very interested in participating in this growth,” said Bradley Sutherland, CEO of Actventure, which is currently developing a Dh1.2 billion resort on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, Australia. “We convened our advisory board meeting in Dubai to discuss potential locations and partners for a UAE roll-out. Other global sites are (also) being considered.”
Incidentally, Actventure is part of Sanad Capital, itself is the real estate arm of Dubai-based Najibi Investments. It was in 2016 that Sanad confirmed plans for its water theme park in Australia. Sanad’s shareholders include Talal Najibi and David Baird, apart from Bradley Sutherland.
Believe it or not, the Australian market has minimal offerings in the theme park and water park industry compared to the international market.”
- Bradley Sutherland | Sanad shareholder
Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been scaling up their themed attractions and thus build on the strengths they already have in offering tourists — and residents — a retail experience. The Sharjah Waterfront City recently confirmed that a water-based theme park and rides will be key components of the project’s first phase of development.
But investing in such attractions can come with a long payback period, as has been the case in destinations elsewhere. And they also tend to cost quite a bit, both in their build and maintenance.
But Sutherland is not too fazed with how Actventure’s first project is faring on the development side.
“Believe it or not, the Australian market has minimal offerings in the theme park and water park industry compared to the international market,” he said. “There are a number of small operations but very limited in terms of offering and products.
“Based on a conservative financial model completed by a major international accounting firm, we anticipate solid profits in the first year of operation. (And) increasing substantially over the following years with a full RoI (return on investment) within four years from operation.
“The model also shows a potential IPO within this time frame once international sites kick in, which increases the RoI significantly.”
Phase one of the Sunshine Coast venture will have the six-hectare waterpark, an outdoor “adventure tower”, and a 6,000 square metre retail zone. This phase was approved by the regulatory authorities in February last year.
Phases two and three are currently awaiting the sign-off, and will include a 225-room hotel, an action sports precinct with facilities for skateboarding, BMX biking, and the “Wave Reservoir”, which the developer says will be a first for Australia.
“Actventure controls all of the land including both freehold and leasehold elements,” the CEO said. “This creates flexibility for us when discussing various elements of the project, such as the hotel, with joint venture partners.
“We have now completed full masterplanning with the Thinkwell Group, a world leaders in theme park design. We have competed the water park design with Whitewater West and have development approval from the Sunshine Coast Council, the authority, for 70 per cent of the site in the initial stage and a bulk earthworks approval for the total site. This enables us to start moving earth within the next couple of months.
“Simultaneously, we are in talks with some individuals and institutional investors about Actventure. We participated in a road show in Asia promoting it to potential strategic investors and organised by Colliers with PwC and The Commonwealth Bank of Australia.”