x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Ferrari World plan for work and play

Ferrari World is hoping to attract more corporate guests to the theme park.

Ferrari World has attracted 100,000 visitors since it opened in November at Yas Island.
Ferrari World has attracted 100,000 visitors since it opened in November at Yas Island.

Ferrari World hopes to persuade companies to rent out the entire theme park for the day to drive additional revenues.

Estimated to be worth Dh4 billion (US$1.08bn), and with rides including the world's fastest roller coaster, Ferrari World aims to attract more corporate guests, its director of sales said this week.

It has already hosted many corporate events, with business visitors making use of meeting rooms as well as enjoying the park, said Fabien Laurent.

"We are working with corporates very closely, especially banks, local corporates and regional corporates," Mr Laurent said. "We are currently handling requests for park privatisation for the entire venue. Most of these companies want to surprise either their customers or their employees."

Theme parks worldwide have suffered in recent years as tourism declined. One US operator, Six Flags, filed for bankruptcy in 2009, while several planned Dubailand theme parks have stalled.

Mr Laurent declined to say how much it would cost companies to rent Ferrari World for the day. It would be available on Mondays, when it is closed to the public.

"The core business is the families, but the park has been designed from the start with venues and function rooms to host meetings and conferences and team-building," Mr Laurent said. "You can work, then the next minute you can be sitting in the fastest roller coaster in the world."

The park, next to the Yas Marina Circuit, has attracted hundreds of thousands of visitors since it opened in November before the second Formula One Grand Prix race in the capital.

"We have been above target since we opened," Mr Laurent said. "Everything is above target - spending per guest, merchandise, food and beverage revenue, ticket revenue.

"The split is pretty balanced between the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. These are the main markets. And we also have a good share of people coming from the GCC region and international markets."

Mr Laurent said that between 60 and 80 per cent of the park's visitors came from the UAE.

The Saudi Arabian market has been the main foreign source for visitors from the GCC, he added.

Last month was particularly strong for Saudi Arabian visitors. Abu Dhabi hotels also reported a surge in visitors from the country, as many tourists avoided traditionally popular destinations such as Egypt.

The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is forecasting 15 per cent growth in business visitors to the emirate this year, up by 200,000 on last year to 1.5 million. Business travellers are expected to account for 75 per cent of all hotel guests staying in Abu Dhabi this year.

The international market for Ferrari World is still relatively small.

"We need more time to tap into distant markets," Mr Laurent said. "As soon as there's a major event attracting an international audience, then obviously we have a share of it."

He said the park had attracted visitors from Europe, as well as groups from China and India.

"We also have from the international market the cruise ships," he added.

Hoteliers and guests have said that some of the rides suffered technical problems.

Mr Laurent said maintenance issues were normal in the early stages. He said the park had a development team working on additional attractions.

Samir Hamadeh, the general manager of Alpha Tours in Dubai, said the park needed to expand its attractions. "They are depending now on the local residents, but they have to get more international tourists and spend some more money on marketing internationally."

rbundhun@thenational.ae