The UAE is projected to make up 90% of the leisure tourism market in the Middle East by 2020, according to research by Team Leisure LLC ahead of The Leisure Show Dubai 2016.

The UAE is just about to take a huge step on to the world leisure stage with some 10 – 15 major leisure attractions due to open in 2016 and many more in the pipeline. This is the next big step in the UAE’s tourism strategy and the single biggest driver of growth in the hotel market for the next 5 years.

In 2016 alone, four major new theme parks are scheduled to open in the UAE. They are IMG Worlds of Adventure (August) and Motion Gate, Bollywood and Legoland at Dubai Parks and Resorts (October), all in Dubai, alongside the Louvre Abu Dhabi, safari parks in both Dubai and Al Ain and an exciting range of other leisure projects.

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According to PwC’s report “UAE’s transformation into a world-class Leisure & Entertainment destination”, the country can become a world-class leisure and entertainment destination to rival cities such as Orlando, Singapore and Hong Kong if it takes a holistic approach to exploit its unique geographical location, high quality attractions and investment in infrastructure.

PwC estimates the total L&E market potential in the UAE is set to almost double to 45m by 2021, with international tourists accounting for 30m, whilst residents and friends and relatives of residents total a further 15m. PwC believes theme parks in the pipeline will attract 18m visits.

“The key to a consistently successful destination is enabling visitors to enjoy multiple attractions. Offering multi-park tickets, all inclusive packages and coordinated visitor management from booking through inbound and local transportation, hotels and attractions will be crucial,” said Philip Shepherd, Partner, PwC Middle East Hospitality & Leisure Leader.

The UAE rivals Orlando in terms of scale, transport links, and food & beverage facilities. Furthermore, the country’s central location – within 8 hours of 6 billion people – provides an unrivalled advantage to further transform the industry, says PwC.

The UAE already rivals Orlando in the scale of transport links, lodging and food & beverage sectors and its central global location. For instance, Dubai International Airport surpassed Heathrow in 2014 to become the world’s busiest airport, with 70m international passengers per year. In comparison Orlando airport sees 36 million passengers annually, with many visitors driving from nearby states.

The UAE’s supply of hotel rooms is set to double by 2020, from approximately 100,000 rooms in 2014. In contrast, Orlando hotel room supply was approximately 120,000 in 2014.

The foodservice sector is worth approximately 5 billion in the UAE, in comparison to 5.6 billion in Orlando. The UAE foodservice sector is set to increase by half to 7.5 bn in 2018.