Article about budget in attractions, brand centers and theme parks

Raising the bar.

I am one of the lucky ones who had the opportunity to work at a company where clients allowed us to work with respectable budgets. During my time at BRC Imagination Arts we were focused on creating projects which were more exiting and interesting than the market standard, aiming to get beyond the clients and visitors expectations.

Let’s be honest, it is fantastic to work on those kind of projects and it is important for our industry to raise the bar on quality and experience all the time. Raising the bar in the right way works: Heineken Experience, a project where I was executive producer for, was setting a higher standard when we reopened it 10 years ago and became immensely successful. And most of us recognise the success of Universal Studio’s when they raised the bar in the Theme Park world with the Harry Potter projects.

Since I left BRC and started my own leisure consultancy firm, I had the pleasure to work on projects on the other end of the spectrum: with very low budgets. My first low budget project was a favor to a friend who wanted to enter our industry. We were brainstorming about his dream: a kids play area without using any artificial play structures, where kids play naturally. We tried to remember what we liked when we were young – playing with water and sand or in other words – getting dirty.  Even with a limited budget, we wanted to find a way to raise the bar: something we couldn’t do as kids, but always wanted to – a big sand play area, with water, where kids treasure hunt for small pieces of gold in the sand, not limited to a special area, but everywhere. A very simple idea, interactive and low investment – it turned out to be hugely successful.

It made me realize that raising the bar can be done on any budget. Moreover, small budgets are more fun creatively and the rewards are much higher.

Global Village

My recent visit to Global Village in Dubai made me realize again that raising the bar is not about budgets. For those who have never been to Global Village: this is a six-month event, every year, where guests can experience the world in different pavilions. All facades are rebuilt with temporary structures every year, behind the facades you’ll find more than 100 privately operated food outlets, many shops and a fun fair. You pay as you go. What makes it really unique: for an entrance fee of 15 Dh (Euro 3,60, USD 4,10) visitors enter a fantasy world, with live music, street performers everywhere, fountain shows, amazing free spectacles….an evening outside their ordinary world.  During its 6 months opening, Global Village attracts more than 6 million guests every year.

My last visit to Global Village was with a group of more than 200 industry professionals (including operators, leisure consultancy, designers etc), during the IAAPA leadership conference. During the conference we visited capital intensive projects like IMG World of Adventure, Dubai Parks & Resorts and Warner Bros Abu Dhabi. Out of all these parks we visited, Global Village was, by far, the park with the lowest investment.

At the end of the conference most of us concluded that we enjoyed the evening at Global Village the most. Despite the high investments of the other projects we visited, the atmosphere at Global Village made the absolute difference. The right balance of entertainment and F&B offerings in a pleasant themed environment, with the right entrance price, draws an enormous amount of people to Global village. Every evening, creating a unique atmosphere and thus, raising the bar in Dubai…..

That visit to Global Village made me realise more (and enjoy) that raising the bar is not about budgets, but knowing who your audience is, and having the creativity to realise something unique that exceeds your visitor expectations.

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