Visitors and Exhibitors at the The Dubai Entertainment Amusement and Leisure Show (DEAL) 2015 at the Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/ Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE is expected to see an increase in amusement parks over the next five years, driven by rising tourist numbers in the country, according to industry experts.

“People invest in theme parks because they expect the number of visitors to increase. And increasing attractions increases the number of visitors,” Nikola Kosutic, research manager at Euromonitor International, said by phone.

Amusement parks do not just attract tourists; they also allow some to extend their length of stay. Kosutic expects visitors’ length of stay in the UAE to grow to more than four days in the next five years.

Dubai, where most of the upcoming amusement parks in the country will open, is expected to attract 20 million visitors per year by 2020. The Expo 2020, a six-month trade fair that will kick off that same year, is anticipated to bring in 25 million visitors.

“Looking back a few years, demand in the UAE [for theme parks] had been soft overall. But we’re seeing increasing demand, especially from late 2014 to early 2015. I see increased demand from existing customers as well. I expect to see demand continue to increase through 2015, 2016 and all the way to 2020,” said Grant Poje, executive vice president of business development at White Water, a Canada-based manufacturer of waterpark attractions.

Speaking at the Dubai Entertainment Amusement and Leisure Show (DEAL), a three-day event that kicked off at the Dubai World Trade Centre on Tuesday, Poje said that another factor driving the development of amusement parks is more available funds being invested in them.

“Looking back over the last four years, the amount of capital that was available to be spent and invested in these parks was low. There was the financial crisis … money was tight globally … what we’re seeing now is a substantial increase in the amount of investment in waterparks and theme parks. Capital is much higher now,” he said.

White Water, which has supplied the rides for Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis The Palm in Dubai and most of the ones at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Waterworld, will deliver a river rapids ride for the Motiongate theme park, which is scheduled to open in Dubai in October 2016.

Motiongate is part of Dubai Parks and Resorts, which is being built in Jebel Ali by Meraas Holding, a Dubai-government owned real estate company. It will also have attractions inspired by The Hunger Games film franchise.

Another anticipated amusement park set to open in Dubai is Six Flags. It is being built by Meraas Holding in Jebel Ali as well, with an opening scheduled for 2017.

Entertainment options are placed high on Dubai’s developers’ priority list. Dubailand is seeing a revival of theme park projects that were shelved during the economic downturn. Ilyas and Mustafa Galadari (IMG) Group is developing the IMG Worlds of Adventure amusement park there, which will consist of the Marvel, Cartoon Network, Lost Valley and IMG Boulevard zones, as well as a 12-screen cinema.

Turkey-based Polin Waterparks will deliver rides for an upcoming waterpark in Dammam, Saudi Arabia, said Kubilay Alpdogan, the company’s director of sales and design, at DEAL. It is currently supplying children’s rides for Sharjah’s Al Montazah park, he said.

The market for theme parks in the UAE was valued at Dh1.6 billion in 2014, Kosutic said, adding that he expects that to grow to over Dh3 billion by 2019. The number of people visiting theme parks in the country is forecasted to grow from 6.2 million in 2014 to 11.4 million in 2019, he said.