Dubai is spending more than any other location in the Middle East on leisure projects, according to a report to be presented at the Tourism Development Projects and Investment Market Show.
Projects worth $381 billion (Dh1,399bn) are either under way or planned in Dubai. Across the region more than $1trillion is being pumped into the leisure sector. This forms a substantial proportion of total tourism and transport investment of $3.63trn in the region encompassing leisure projects, hotels, aviation developments, cruise lines and supporting infrastructure.
The figures appear in the Middle East Leisure Landscape 2020 – a report by two think tanks, Global Futures and Foresight (GFF) and Fast Future. The research covers 13 countries in the Middle East.
“The sheer scale of the spending on travel and tourism across the Middle East demands an equivalent level of investment in the supporting leisure landscape if the region is to succeed in attracting the visitor levels it is targeting,” said Rohit Talwar the report’s co-author and CEO of GFF and Fast Future.
“The research highlights there is clearly the ambition, vision and funding in place to develop a range of world-class leisure offerings across the region,” said Talwar.
The countries covered by the report are the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkey and Yemen. Detailed research was carried out into published leisure plans, media announcements and coverage.
Saudi Arabia was the second largest spender after Dubai, with initiatives valued at $184bn. Abu Dhabi was third with $131bn of new projects.
The largest individual developer is Tatweer with $170bn of projects – with Dubailand alone accounting for $110bn of this. Aldar is the second highest with $71bn worth of developments in the pipeline.
Emaar is developing $16bn of projects but if its stakes in joint ventures such as King Abdullah Economic City in Saudi Arabia are included, the total value of projects in which it is involved rises to $136bn.
Of the $1.006trn worth of developments identified, $171bn has been committed for pure leisure projects – developments such as museums and theme parks.
A further $218.3bn is being invested in the development of leisure resorts. A total of $611bn worth of mixed-use initiatives were identified – covering projects such as residential or commercial developments, which includes large leisure components.
The largest individual projects identified include King Abdullah Economic City (pictured above), valued at $120bn, the $110bn Dubailand project, Kuwait’s $86bn City of Silk as well as the $61bn Arabian Canal development in the emirate.
Fast Future’s Tim Hancock – the lead researcher and co-author of the report – said: “We are trying to build a clear and objective picture of how the region’s travel and tourism proposition will develop and how the leisure landscape will evolve within this overall picture.
Talwar said: “The greatest challenge is finding clear and consistent numbers on the investments – for example there is little data available from most developers on how the budgets split out across mixed-use developments.”
The study highlights the scale of the challenge facing developers and operators, who must ensure plans are economically, environmentally and socially sustainable over the long term.
Talwar added: “To compete for visitors’ attention, these projects will need to develop strong branding and clearly differentiated propositions.
“The scale of resources required to build and operate these facilities will place a huge demand on critical resources such as water, and create major environmental pressures. The region is already facing the risk of project delays on existing developments due to a shortage of skilled workers.”
“These new developments will only increase those problems. A particular concern is the growing shortage of project management talent capable of delivering these multi-million and multi-billion dollar developments.
“All these challenges will need to be addressed if developers are to ensure the long-term viability of their investments,” said Talwar.
The findings of the study will be presented at a series of seminars on Sunday and Monday on the Nakheel stand at the exhibition.
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