IAAPA Middle East Summit Explores Fresh Attractions Across Dubai
Untether a scroll holding a map of Dubai and find there’s no shortage of new attractions rising from the sand. Fresh attractions across the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) largest city played host to attendees during IAAPA Middle East Summit in February. IAAPA members were treated to multiple visits and access to leaders at several new and expanding attractions that promise to keep Dubai on the map for pushing the boundaries of individual and tailored experiences, new concepts, smart use of technology, and sustainability strategies.
“Our philosophy has always been to highlight the latest trends in the industry during IAAPA EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) events so that participants are inspired and take home ideas,” said Jakob Wahl, IAAPA executive vice president and chief operating officer.
Almost 130 attendees from 22 countries across Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and North America attended the summit, which included tours of Expo 2020 Dubai, the new Ain Dubai observation wheel, an expansion of Aquaventure water park at Atlantis Dubai, and the brand-new Museum of the Future on its second day of operation.
“Over the past years, the region has created a reputation for innovative and amazing projects of a large scale,” Wahl said. “While these are impressive and definitely a must-see, there are also ‘soft factors,’ which make a difference: amazing hospitality, a perfection for cleanliness, and the focus on creating iconic, visual moments for everyone to experience and share.”
The Lapita Hotel at Dubai Parks and Resorts served as a home base, where attendees could also visit the Motiongate Dubai and Bollywood Parks Dubai theme parks. Both parks are home to several recently opened roller coasters, rides, and attractions. Attendees experienced the lavish queue of “John Wick: Open Contract,” before braving the new 4D Free Spin Coaster from S&S – Sansei Technologies and the new “Now You See Me: High Roller” spinning coaster from Maurer Rides.
Expo 2020 Dubai Captivates and Delights
Like desert sands passing through an hourglass, Expo 2020 Dubai—a world expo taking place every five years (often referred to as a “world’s fair” in the United States or a “universal exhibition” in European nations)—is an attraction that visitors only have a limited amount of time to enjoy.
Opening on Oct. 1, 2021 (delayed a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic), Expo 2020 wrapped up its operating season on March 31, 2022.
“When we were told we were just delaying for 12 months, there was always the absolute belief and determination we would get this event on,” said Clive Stephens, director of operations for Expo 2020. He shared with Funworld that working with the government in the UAE was key to opening the expo safely, along with planning ahead. “By the time we got to opening day, we had all the procedures in place,” he said.
Attendees of IAAPA Middle East Summit strolled the attraction’s three global neighborhoods, encompassing the themes of sustainability, mobility, and opportunity. Each neighborhood was anchored by a multistory pavilion—reminiscent of a science center—where the latest trends and concepts were on display. In addition, 190 nations were represented in pavilions and exhibits of all different sizes.
“For me, the world expo is—and always will be—a magical place,” Wahl said. “It’s a perfect showcase of architecture, the latest AV (audiovisual) technology, an educational experience, and, at the same time, a replica of how the world should be: all together for the better of society.”
Upon arrival at Expo 2020, attendees first visited the sustainability pavilion for a reception on an elevated terrace. Named Terra, the pavilion’s giant canopy roof structure consists of hundreds of solar arrays that also provide shade. Here, Stephens welcomed guests and provided details into the attraction’s six-month operation.
“We had a very traditional organizational structure that you would find at a theme park,” Stephens said. “We ensured we had a complete, diverse range of people in each team who could speak a multitude of different languages.” On the average day, Stephens said, 18,000 school children took tours presented in English, Arabic, and Hindi.
At Terra, attendees learned about the importance of sustainable design and operation and explored the eclectic menus of the food and beverage (F&B) program found across the expo’s 1,083 acres.
Many attendees got a bird’s-eye view of the attraction grounds by riding “Garden in the Sky,” an Intamin Gyro Tower—with a twist. Continuing the sustainability and mobility themes, the tower included an open-air upper deck with trees growing out of the cabin’s roof. The trees rose and rotated right along with the gondola.
“We made the impossible possible,” Stephens said.