Industry experts highlight massive business opportunities at the MENALAC’s successful virtual LEA Conference 2020

Expo 2020 Dubai official encourages attendees to the conference to seize business opportunities that Expo 2020 brings to the region’s leisure and attractions sector

Date: Dubai, UAE, December 10, 2020

Massive business opportunities are going to keep suppliers and manufacturers busy and help boost the leisure entertainment and attractions industry as the world gets ready for the post-COVID-19 economic boom in 2021, experts at MENALAC’s recently-concluded and highly successful virtual Leisure Entertainment and Amusement (LEA) Conference 2020 told delegates and industry fraternity.

Organised by the Middle East North Africa Leisure Attractions Council (MENALAC), the Leisure Entertainment and Amusement (LEA) Conference 2020, which took place virtually was a huge success and brought together top industry experts to address the key issues, challenges and trends in the industry through presentations and panel discussions.

The Leisure and Attractions Industry is a great contributor to the tourism sector and our regional economies, industry experts said at the conference.

The LEA Conference 2020 highlighted the massive business opportunities in the Gulf and elsewhere in the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, where government and the private sector investors are injecting billions of dollars to build new theme parks, amusement parks, large cinema complexes, shopping malls with family entertainment centres – that will help the suppliers and manufacturers of leisure products to expand their businesses.

The conference began with a keynote speech by Clive Stephens, Director of Operations, Expo 2020 Dubai, in which he encouraged attendees to explore the significant business opportunities at Expo 2020 Dubai.

“Expo 2020 Dubai will be a six-month celebration of creativity, innovation, humanity and world cultures. Our teams have been working diligently to ensure we are more than ready to open our doors on 1 October 2021, when our visitors will enjoy a truly breathtaking experience, including 17 stages hosting dozens of live shows per day. For the first time, every participating country will have its own pavilion, each filled with an amazing variety of spectacular content.

Expo 2020 Dubai – the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, and the largest event ever held in the Arab world – is set to create major business opportunities for leisure and entertainment suppliers, including members of MENALAC, when it opens its doors on 1 October 2021. More than 46,000 organisations from more than 180 countries are registered to do business with Expo 2020, with Expo committing 20 per cent of direct and indirect spending to SMEs. As of the end of October 2020, Expo 2020 had awarded almost AED 5.12 billion to SMEs.

More than 200 participants – including countries, companies, international organisations and educational institutions – are participating in Expo 2020, which will run from 1 October 2021 until 31 March 2022.

The MENALAC Virtual Conference took place as the Middle East has seen massive development of leisure entertainment and attractions projects with confirmed investment of more than $350 billion dollars in the theme parks and attractions sector, according to reports.

Rosa Tahmaseb, Secretary General of MENALAC, says, “Hosting a virtual conference during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has been a huge success, especially with the participation of so many industry experts and thought leaders who discussed the regions upcoming business opportunities with phenomenal facts and figures. My team and I have had a huge amount of incredibly positive feedback from our attendees with multiple references to the groundbreaking content and presentation of this conference.”

The purpose of a council such as MENALAC is to ensure we are at the forefront of our industries’ opportunities and trends and to use this knowledge in the best way possible when supporting our members throughout the MENA region.  We produced and delivered this conference with the aim of reigniting the passion and energy that the MENA Leisure & Attractions industry is known for, yes there have been and will continue to be some hard times ahead as the industry picks itself up and dusts off the impact of Covid-19 however what lies ahead for our industry is starting to look very positive and there are a number of great opportunities out there which will truly help to boost business for all our members.

She also took the time to stop and share a big Thank you to our nations great leaders for having the vision to get the UAE back up and running so efficiently, MENALAC’s esteemed sponsors and her colleagues, she said, “The success is the result of a tremendous teamwork and I thank and congratulate everyone who participated and helped in its success”.

The MENALAC LEA Conference hosted three panel discussions with the first one focusing on Future of Entertainment – Beyond 2020, on how the MENA Leisure and Attractions industry is preparing to remain at the forefront as we move beyond 2020. The panel discussion was moderated by Charles Read, Managing Director Blooloop and participated by Silvio Liedtke, CEO of Landmark Leisure; Cameron Mitchell, CEO of MAF Leisure, Entertainment and Cinemas; Jakob Wahl, Executive Director and Vice President of IAAPA EMEA and Damien Latham Head of Attractions at Seven.

Speakers discussed how the industry is embracing digitization. Technology will change the industry as user experience will be driven by touchless and seamless experience. COVID-19 has pushed the industry operators to fast-track the digitization process in the industry.

This was followed by a panel discussion on Women Leaders in MENA Leisure industry. The discussion was moderated by Rupkatha Bhowmick, a seasoned Journalist and Blogger in which the trailblazing panel shared their success stories and views on the benefits of women leaders in leisure. Panelists Zeina Dagher, CEO of Emaar Entertainment; Sheikha Monira Khaled Al Sabah, CEO Play Enterprises and Co-Founder of Trampo Extreme; Shifa Yusuffali, CEO of Ideacrate Edutainment, Maria Gedeon and Marketing Director of MAF Leisure, Entertainment and Cinemas, they spoke at length about the contribution of women leaders in MENA leisure industry.

The third session focused on The Power of Local Suppliers, participated by Mike Rigby Executive VP, Middle East and India WhiteWater, Prakash Vivekanand Founder and Managing Director Amusement Services International Group, Renee Welsh CEO EMBED and Alberto Zamperla President Antonio Zamperla SPA. The lively session was moderated by Rosa Tahmaseb Secretary General MENALAC.

The panel discussed the topic of garnering the power of local and regional suppliers and how this will help operations globally to have more effective solutions from their suppliers.  Another key topic was that of the MENA region’s business culture and how important it is for suppliers to truly know and understand how to work within this business culture effectively.  The panel concluded by discussing how a local supplier with the right level of knowledge and experience in understanding their regions business cultural, customer needs, local market awareness and demographic knowledge will always be able to give the best possible solution to their prospective customers resulting in strong partnerships for both parties.

Panelist Mr. Prakash Vivekanand said, “The Leisure & Attractions industry is a global industry that certainly needs local expertise to thrive as the MENA region and its demographic significances are unique. Most Suppliers and Manufacturers who are based in the region understand these unique requirements and are committed to meeting the same. We are well informed about what’s going on in the rest of the world and are able to adapt this knowledge to local operating conditions. New investors in particular can truly benefit from this level of local expertise and on the ground know how.”

This was followed by a presentation on Saudi Arabia’s leisure sector development and opportunities by Don Potts, President of Parks and Attractions, Qiddiya. Mr. Potts offered a glimpse of the opportunities for the suppliers and manufacturers active in the industry.

Don Potts, President of Parks and Attractions at Qiddiya said, “Qiddiya is a catalyst for national transformation, spurring innovation, sparking inspiration and creating opportunities.

“We have been doing wonderful things in Qiddiya which is right outside Riyadh. It’s really a formidable initiative to transform both Social and Business opportunities for Saudis and international tourism in the region.

“After Saudi opened its doors to international tourism last year, we have seen great numbers of visitors’ pre-COVID. There are 33 million people in Saudi and 8.5 million are in Riyadh, 67 percent of them are 35 years old or younger. There are millennials and young adults looking for entertainment and 69 percent of Saudis are of middle income or above, this reflects a robust purchasing power.

The 366 square kilometres site of Qiddiya is larger than Walt Disney World and the developed area will be divided into five zones: Resort Core, City Centre, Motion Zone, Eco Zone and Golf Community.

“There will be parks and attractions, sports and wellness as our key initiative is to transform the Saudi population and expose them to activities, exercises and wellness, he said. “There will be fast rides, art & cultures, motor sports, city walk, residential offerings with golf on top and a football stadium as well. We are going to have some coasters, racing and water parks and all kinds of fun.”

Finally, Prakash Vivekanand presented MENALAC’s latest initiative, the MENA Leisure Report, industry benchmark publication for the industry stakeholders that will contain value information on the Leisure & Entertainment Industry specific to each country in the MENA Region.  “The MENA L&E industry certainly ranks among one of the best in the world. However, the regional industry lacks qualified data on its performance and its contribution to the economy of each country in the MENA Region. This report aims to collect, collate and present such valuable data on the industry, market demographics and entertainment operations across the region, thus help all stakeholders to understand & interpret our industry better”, said Prakash Vivekanand.

MENALAC is the key representative organization for the entire leisure entertainment and amusement industry in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. With over 470 operations and 200 brands from over 22 countries in the MENA region in addition to Pakistan and Afghanistan, MENALAC offers great benefits to the industry as a platform for stakeholders to interact and stay informed.


Editors’ Notes 


Middle East and North Africa Leisure and Attractions Council (MENALAC) is a not-for-profit platform representing the Leisure, Entertainment and Attractions industry in the Middle East and North Africa.

With over 470 operations and 150 brands from 22 countries in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region including Pakistan and Afghanistan, MENALAC offers great benefit to the industry as a platform for stakeholders to interact and stay informed.

It has been set up under the aegis of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) and the Dubai Association Centre in 2016 when leading companies within the region’s entertainment industry, including Theme Parks, Visitor Attractions, Water Parks and Family Entertainment Centres companies joined forces to form a council to support the growth and development of the industry.

The Council was established as a platform to promote a safe operations, regional development, professional growth and commercial success of the amusement industry and to be an indispensable resource for the Council’s members and an international authority for the attraction industry.

The Annual MENALAC Awards, the biggest awards in the leisure attractions industry in the Middle East, celebrates the industry achievements, reward excellence and outstanding performance in various facets of the leisure and entertainment industry.

MENALAC also organises several conferences and events throughout the year to provide continuing education and training in amusement facility operations, facilitates networking opportunities to its members and support the Leisure and Entertainment industry.