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.”