7 Days in Dubai - - TALK FROM THE TOP -

Theme parks are the buzz­word in the UAE right now. Be it IMG Worlds of Ad­ven­ture, Mo­tion­gate, Le­goland Dubai, Bol­ly­wood Parks or Six Flags (which will make up DXB Parks) and Warner Bros in Abu Dhabi, the coun­try will soon be awash with rides and at­trac­tions.

That’s on top of the ex­ist­ing wa­ter parks and at­trac­tions like Fer­rari World.

But there’s one park that has been pro­vid­ing en­ter­tain­ment for UAE res­i­dents and vis­i­tors for the past 20 years.

So what does the man in charge of Global Vil­lage, which has been at­tract­ing vis­i­tors since 1997, think of the im­pend­ing com­pe­ti­tion?

“We wel­come it,” Global Vil­lage CEO Ah­mad Hus­sain bin Essa tells 7DAYS.

“Com­pe­ti­tion is pos­i­tive - mo­nop­o­lies kill busi­ness. We’ve been in this busi­ness for a long time. We feel pos­i­tive about it be­cause all the parks will com­ple­ment each other - ev­ery park has a dif­fer­ent prod­uct.

“We are more a lo­cal brand and the lo­cal touch. All of the parks will help in­crease vis­i­tor num­bers, the foot­fall will dou­ble.”

But with the sec­tor soon ti be in­vaded by the likes of Ben 10, Bol­ly­wood megas­tars, Lego and big-name hits like Harry Pot­ter and the Hunger Games, how will Global Vil­lage hold its own?

“We have an unique prod­uct, dif­fer­ent to any­where else,” Bin Essa says.

“We of­fer value for money, more than any­where else. Last sea­son we had pavil­ions from 75 coun­tries. That means you don’t have to leave [the UAE] to ex­pe­ri­ence 75 coun­tries.

“We do well rep­re­sent­ing the world and dif­fer­ent cul­tures. We have prod­ucts from those coun­tries, we have dances and shows, we have food from the dif­fer­ent coun­tries. “And we also have the fair­ground.” Trans­ac­tions worth Dhs2.2 bil­lion dur­ing the record-break­ing 20th sea­son, with 5.3 mil­lion vis­i­tors through the gates, back up the CEO’s view of why his fa­cil­ity will main­tain its ap­peal.

But what is Global Vil­lage? Is it a theme park or a cul­tural and her­itage at­trac­tion?

“There’s been so many dis­putes be­tween the team, as to what we are and what is the right word and how can we de­fine it,” ad­mits Bin Essa.

“Fi­nally we came up with we are a ‘mul­ti­cul­tural fes­ti­val park’. We cel­e­brate so many dif­fer­ent fes­tiv­i­ties from around the world. We ex­plore the world rather than try­ing to ed­u­cate, you can ex­plore the cul­ture of 75 coun­tries in one place and en­joy dif­fer­ent food, shows and cul­ture and in­ter­act with the na­tion­als.”

As well as be­ing an at­trac­tion, and con­tribut­ing to the Dubai econ­omy, does Global Vil­lage play any kind of role in dis­cov­er­ing new, ob­scure prod­ucts from coun­tries that might then find their way to su­per­mar­ket shelves in Dubai?

“We work with au­thor­i­ties, DED, con­sumer pro­tec­tion,” bin Essa says. “Each coun­try should have di­ver­sity - six to nine prod­ucts minimum. A higher per­cent­age of what the coun­try is fa­mous for. “We al­ways en­cour­age small, medium busi­ness. Then we start see­ing them in malls. For ex­am­ple, Turk­ish ice cream - the one where they make the noise while pre­par­ing it - was seen for the first time at Global Vil­lage a few years ago. Now it is in all the malls. Ye­meni honey also (left).” So with the sum­mer­time too hot to re­main open, does the Vil­lage miss out, and what does the team do for half of the year? “Well with tech­nol­ogy now we can al­ter the weather, so maybe in the fu­ture we can open all year round,” jokes bin Essa. “But, no, we pre­fer to be an out­door venue and that means lim­i­ta­tions with the weather. “But the sea­son­al­ity works for us. We have 10,000 peo­ple work­ing here dur­ing the sea­son - 7,500 are ex­hibitors. “That’s more than 100 na­tion­al­i­ties. “They come here on six-month visas, show their prod­ucts then they go back to busi­ness in their home coun­tries. “It works for them and it works for us. “Right now we are plan­ning for next sea­son. We scored nine out of 10 on the cus­tomer sat­is­fac­tion sur­vey and re­ceived plenty of rec­om­men­da­tions for fu­ture sea­sons. “En­hanc­ing park­ing is one thing, de­spite hav­ing 17,500 spa­ces last sea­son. And more ATMs.” Bin Essa wouldn’t be drawn on his favourite pav­il­ion, but de­spite a wide rep­re­sen­ta­tion of global cul­tures, is there any­thing miss­ing? “Right now we don’t have any rep­re­sen­ta­tion from Ocea­nia, from Aus­tralia or New Zealand.” And what about the fair­ground? “Right now we don’t have a roller coaster,” Bin Essa grins. “So we are look­ing into that… I like the thrill rides.”

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