Just over ten years back I was involved with both Ilyas and Mustafa Galadari as the plans for the City of Arabia took shape and the various components we detailed out. The plans were ambitious and in line with the mood of the city of Dubai. The downturn in the real estate market washed out many of projects and in a sense separated the boys from the men. I will admit within my own mind I often looked at this wonderful project and thought if it would see the light of the day. For me the interest remained attuned to the theme park elements because that was where I felt the footfall would be drawn. I often believed and said without the draw of a mall the theme park would struggle to survive in a market where no one had ventured to the scale and scope that the two brothers envisaged.
Over the weekend I went in to the newly opened IMG World of Adventures to spend a whole day, and the visit was not planned with the owners or anyone. This I believe would give me the independence to see for myself. First and upfront I will admit I was wrong to believe that a theme park without a mall would struggle. Arriving at 11.30 AM i was pleasantly surprised by the number of people venturing into this world of adventure. As I walked around, experiencing the offerings the rides and talking to the visitors I had to eat humble pie each moment, and at each ride and came to the realisation that the two brothers have done it. Well done Ilyas and Mustafa and your team.
I think I need to elaborate on my views. First of all my guess was that the theme park probably had over 15,000 visitors on the day I was there, and it was not a Friday. Lets start with some details:
The large building is deceptive in terms of how much is inside it. The arrival area is large, well laid out and could easily accommodate the largest possible rush with ease. The entry is subdued and some may argue some screens with a teaser for what to expect would have been nice. Personally I think it worked fine as the surprise that awaited one was not exposed too early.
The offering is amazing in all respects. While when I was involved with the project we had thought of only a dinosaur theme park, which would have been adequate attached to a mall; both the brothers have gone a step further and involved the remit of offering to include the Marvel Adventures and the Cartoon Network offering, thereby adding to the Dinosaur experience with a board coverage of the customer base. Experts may argue that it is too much under one roof? Well that might well be the case if this was in the US or Europe, but here two things make it work wonderfully. In the first place the zoning of the offering is well thought out and not crowded and secondly the rich content makes sure that each age group is well catered for.
I tried out four or five of the dozen and half main rides and I must say the experience was excellent across the board. Yes some rides had a longer wait time and when I see the brothers next time I would suggest that they put some sort of screen at each ride to let visitors know the expected wait time per ride as they arrive at the ride, this will help the flow of the people better. The staff were very good and helpful and efficient in all respects. There was emphasis on safety and most of the staff were good at explaining what to expect on each experience.
The F&B outlets were excellent, we had lunch and dinner there, and found the service to be excellent and the food to be great value for money and good quality. What was also refreshing was that one is spoiled for choice when it came to the food offering, from Arabic, to Chinese, to Indian, to Italian to International and even the quick fast food kiosks were all well manned and a delightful experience.
On reflection and given my age, I would say one day is not enough to savour the experience to its entirety and would strongly recommend that a two day or three day pass be considered. The one ticket for all rides and experiences concept is remarkable and very good value for money and offered the visitors the ease that is essential for a good experience. The fast track option is a valuable offering and I would certainly consider it next time.
I would strongly recommend this on a MUST VISIT list and also consider it for repeat visits. My guess is that IMG World of Adventures will have a major impact on the market place not only in Dubai but the region as a whole. In time the marketing exposure will add to the footfall, which I can believe on a busy day would be over 25,000 per day, however at no time did I have a feeling of being crowded as the planning and lay out of the theme park, all of which is indoors, is such that you are not pushing and shoving with people.
As a final note I want to thank Ilyas and Mustafa and their team for a fabulous job to really create something that the market so desperately needed. Well done you both have done it and full appreciation to your commitment to make it happen.