One of the big challenges of any leisure and tourism model is to create the pull that not only brings in tourists but also keeps them entertained. UAE in general and Dubai in particular have taken a solid positioning into the arena of leisure and tourism and the mushrooming of hotels and theme parks are slowly taking their tentative steps from the drawing board to the building sites. However, we ought to look around and see what is out there, and if someone got it right in terms of pure entertainment value look at Las Vegas.
Indeed the perception in the minds of most is that Vegas would not work without the gambling, but then that is for Vegas. For the UAE the lesson to learn from Vegas is really about the entertainment value, which quite frankly, is the best in the world here in Vegas. I would agree that for Vegas the pull has been the gambling and perhaps 8 in 10 people go there for that, but this has begun to change as some people will come for the entertainment or the business conventions that are becoming a feature of this place.
Where Dubai would have an edge on Vegas is the quality of the hotels and the service they provide. However a beach and a great hotel is not going to be enough to sustain the business model and this is where it is essential to consider the value of the entertainment content that needs to come to Dubai. To be sustainable and competitive it is vital that the theme parks and entertainment has to be better than what is out there today.
I have seen some of the emerging entertainment and shows that have either been planned or have been shown so far and quite frankly none of them seriously cut the mustard for me. Yes there are some great content offerings under preparation in a handful of projects, but the vast majority of new hotels on the design board are more concerned with the architecture rather than the content within the hotels. This is where developers do not quite see the picture.
However, for superior content to come to Dubai and Abu Dhabi the most important thing to consider is whether this will be fresh content developed for the market or will it be supplanted content like shows and attractions bought and planted here? Development is hard work but indeed the most rewarding in terms of customer appreciation and repeat or recommended visitation. Purchased content has issues of adaptation and in some cases may test the sensitivities of people in the region. Either way we have to get real and understand the challenge ahead is not only about bringing in great architects to built great hotels, but to look inside the envelope and think of some really cool ideas, failing in this simple but crucial aspect would cost millions to developers.