Global Village in Dubai, which celebrated its 25th anniversary this 12 months, is a multicultural festival park – a vacation spot for tradition, procuring, consuming and leisure, showcasing pavilions and cultures from everywhere in the world.
Bader Anwahi, Chief Executive Officer at Global Village, Dubai, spoke to blooloop concerning the groundbreaking imaginative and prescient that underpins it.
Joining Global Village
Outlining his background, Anwahi says:
“I studied enterprise info expertise and graduated from Coventry University within the UK. Then, I joined the Tecom Group as a Telecom infrastructure engineer earlier than I joined the Telecom firm DU from 2005 to 2017, in several roles and departments, from engineering to high quality to challenge administration and head of PMO with nearly $1 billion dirhams of portfolio.
“I decided that was enough – I would stop doing things with systems, and move towards dealing with people. I joined Dubai Holdings and Global Village as a COO, and within seven months I was promoted to CEO.”
This transfer, in 2017, is the place his journey within the leisure sector started.
“Entertainment was all the time a particular factor, and I might say in a area or a rustic just like the UAE, it wasn’t very mature at that time of time total. Until now, we’ve got been on a journey to rework this trade to an entire subsequent stage.
“I thought there were lots of opportunities to do this, and, coming to it with an IT background, I have, with the team, managed to accelerate the digital transformation of Global Village, and come up with new ideas, as well as using technology and digital services to improve the guest experience and implement the ‘wow’ factor using technology.”
Building on traits
Detailing a few of these new developments and concepts, he provides:
“The transformation of Global Village has been constructed on remark and greatest practices and copying from totally different locations. We make investments so much in information gathering and information analytics. Global Village is formally declared as a data-savvy group, the place decision-making relies on details.
“We have built highly advanced business intelligence platforms which take lots of information from the operational day-to-day facts and data while remaining in compliance with data privacy and respecting guests’ privacy.”
Having created a pool of information, and the info governing half, he explains, he went on to construct on traits and observations:
“This resulted in a collection of day-to-day modifications; we’ve got the strategic ones, we’ve got the operational ones, and we’ve got the business ones.
“If you take a look at the operational ones and business ones, we’ve got created our state-of-the-art cell app, which has a extremely superior navigation system. We employed one of many well-known corporations in app development; they developed the NASA app, and are well-known available in the market
“We began by merging different services together. We merged the e-commerce service where you can buy your tickets, with the capacity to top-up the Wonder passes, which are our playing card, and the valet services. And we made it like a one-stop-shop in an app.”
Technology for a seamless expertise
The subsequent step, he says, was to take a look at totally different locations and industries.
“I like to describe Global Village as the sweet spot between three different areas. If you take the malls and retail industry, and you take theme parks, and you take museums, the common area is Global Village. When we developed the app, and, in fact, any technologies, we cater to the need to serve all three; the Global Village concept together.”
“From an operation perspective, we’ve got invested so much in warmth maps, sensors and facial recognition, only for the sake of getting easy operations. We are speaking about 1000’s of individuals which are coming to a single park. Our common visitation is 42,000 in a standard 12 months, and we will go as much as 120,000 friends.
“We have a world-class facility, and I’m passionate about achieving this number. So, we need to use technology and less manpower to make it a seamless experience.”
Data gathered is used to personalise experiences and promoting.
“Targeted marketing is something that we always try to elevate through our channels, as well as our partners,” says Anwahi. “One factor that we do, to start out with, is the app itself. It has a distinct interface, relying on who accesses it, based mostly on demand, trends, and the place you want to go to and spend most of your time throughout the park.
“If you might be somebody who likes to go contained in the pavilion, which means you might be extra into the procuring half. If I spend most of my time within the carnival space, that exhibits that I come right here to benefit from the leisure facet. Then we begin integrating the Wonder Pass, when the friends prime it up and which rides they’re selecting. “
“This gives overall visibility of the portfolio – whether you are a family ride seeker or a thrill ride seeker, and how you design your journey. We can then send the right communications accordingly to target the guest’s areas of interest, and can send the right communications to target the guests, in terms of upselling and cross-selling.”
The begin of Global Village
Anwahi takes a step again to explain Global Village’s evolution from its inception forwards:
“It’s a nice story to tell. Global Village was launched in 1997, with a small project on Dubai Creek; around 18 kiosks. Today, we are a 1.6 million square metre destination with 3,500 retail outlets, 40,000 shows in a season, more than 300 F&B outlets, and more than 160 rides, skill games and arcades.”
Our mission is to carry the folks and cultures of the world collectively in a singular vacation spot. This sits in all the things that we do
“We really looked at our mission and vision, and then positioned ourselves. Our mission is to bring the people and cultures of the world together in a unique destination. This sits in everything that we do. If we are planning a new project or activation, we ask what the cultural element of it is.”
A world-class facility
“From a positioning perspective, regarding who we’re catering to, I think about Global Villages as a premium financial system. We don’t wish to be a five-star vacation spot, as a result of that’s not the goal that we would like. There are different locations in Dubai, the UAE, and the area which are battling for that.
“We are more interested in acquiring the mass market, though we have visitors ranging from Royal families to the lower income brackets in this society. We welcome them all. There are segmented choices based on the packages – the VIP packs, for example, and the packages that we do.”
“We are very a lot a world-class facility, regardless of being for the plenty.
“We have state-of-the-art amenities; even the bathroom blocks that we constructed just lately are as excessive in high quality as these in a five-star lodge. When I discuss premium and financial system, the setup is 80% is three stars and 20% high-end merchandise.
“We don’t compromise on the guest experience when it comes to hygiene, quite apart from COVID. Even before COVID, we have always taken care of the smallest details when it comes to the experience we deliver. Dubai is a high-end city in terms of look and feel, and we don’t want to be less than anyone else in the region. So, despite being for the mass market, we are maintaining certain guidelines and quality in terms of our deliverables.”
The wow issue at Global Village
“It’s very important that we have different guest journeys based on the portfolio that we have,” he continues:
“We try to use our resources to deliver a better experience, and to create the ‘wow’ factor for guests. ‘Wow factor’ is a very generic phrase. We do a lot of research and studies to understand what the guests really want. Global Village is, proudly, a park that caters for all family members, which is a difficult thing to do; normally, parks tend to target certain segments.”
“There is something in it for every family member. Whether it’s a kid, the nanny, the mother or father, even for elderly people. In fact, in view of the older visitors who come here, we demolished the bridges. For us, they were fine, but we realised there were people struggling to cross them, so we demolished them, and replaced them with eight crossings across the water canal.”
Breaking the mould
As far as the larger image is worried:
“I had a dream, basically – about theme parks and parks,” says Anwahi. “In terms of entertainment here, for many years there were theme parks, then, after a few years, water parks appeared. We were working with our international friends and partners, and with IAAPA on the fact that it’s time to create the third park category officially: a multicultural park.”
The idea is, he says, by design the alternative of all the things that exists available in the market in the present day.
“Take theme parks. They are usually 80% a fantasy and 20% actuality. When you discuss fantasy, it’s principally an IP; a cartoon or a film that was transformed to a theme park. There are tips. There are pathways designed in a sure manner within the park, and there are outlets within the Ikea fashion, the place it’s a must to purchase from every certainly one of them.
“We broke every norm there, deliberately by design. We put the equation on the opposite way, where the park is 80% of reality; you experience people from different countries, different accents, learning their culture.”
Showcasing tradition at Global Village
“People confuse culture and heritage. Heritage is when you go to museums, but culture is the way you live today.”
We are humanity. We are all so totally different, so various. And there’s nothing higher than experiencing different cultures for your self.
“When you discuss UAE tradition, it doesn’t imply a falcon and a tent and a espresso. UAE tradition is about in the present day; how we stay and do issues. We are the identical individuals who will ship the probe to Mars. We are the identical individuals who have a transparent imaginative and prescient of how new trendy cities ought to look.
“So, to showcase our culture to the visitors who come to Global Village, we need to learn about other countries, other cultures. It’s good to know what they are doing. We are humanity. We are all so different, so diverse. And there is nothing better than experiencing other cultures for yourself.”
“We give the guest freedom,” says Anwahi. “This is a basic level. We don’t need you to stroll in streets the place the youngsters might be pulling you in the direction of the balloon store or the toy store. So we empower the friends. We have an open inexperienced space. If you stroll into Global Village, you possibly can simply sit there. You can do no matter you need.
“Nobody’s forcing you to go inside the pavilion, or to a show. Nobody is forcing you to go to the carnival, or FunFair, nobody’s pushing you to do anything. The guest has the power. They can do whatever they want. So the multicultural park stands for reality. And for the 20%, there are IPs that we have – Dangermouse, Ben and Hollie, Peter Rabbit.”
“Global Village additionally has Carnival, which has state-of-the-art Funfair-type of rides. We additionally place it as a premium financial system.
“We are talking about the latest rides; rides that we have purchased with our own qualities, and that we have passed in terms of health and safety. We are talking about rides that are integrated systems, and you don’t need to do anything. You just plug in the cables, and you can download every fact and every log, even remotely. Those rides are equipped with safety measures, so if it’s too windy, they will descend and evacuate smoothly without human interaction.”
Global Village and the expertise financial system
A chat-bot is a current introduction:
“We are using WhatsApp services through the chat-bot, and artificial intelligence-type technology in the rides.”
What he describes is describing one thing transformational and transcendent, that’s breaking down the principles of re-imagining a theme park, and eliminating stereotypes within the course of. In the language of Joe Pine, the idea bridges the hole between the expertise and transformation economies.
“There are white papers being written, especially in the University of Central Florida. There is one on what the future of entertainment looks like. It was talking about the Global Village model, how it is sustainable today and how we are agile when it comes to any crisis or whatever is happening in the market because we are not dependent on entry tickets.”
The impression of COVID-19
Turning to the inevitable topic of COVID’s impression, he continues:
“Three years in the past, after we took over and the entire new staff got here along with the earlier groups, we considered changing Global Village to be extra agile; what makes international village agile, and learn how to take this enterprise outdoors the UAE. So we labored on franchising the mannequin. We thought it might be troublesome to duplicate the mannequin if it remained because it was – I’m speaking about three years in the past – so we determined to do the transformation challenge.
“We started making Global Village faster, younger, in terms of how we were dealing and doing our business.”
“When the COVID disaster occurred, 90% of the visitation dropped in all theme parks. Some didn’t even open; a few of them opened and closed in every week’s time, and a few of them had been working in three days, which wasn’t commercially viable.
“The point is that many organisations had to lose employees. They downsized their organisations. We are proud to say that we kept on and protected all our resources; we did not let go of anyone, and we did not make anyone redundant. This is something, an achievement by itself, which I’m personally proud of and proud of the team who managed to do it by coming up with a smarter way, despite COVID.”
A secure area
“We had been additionally dedicated to our SME companions, and to help the SME ecosystem. Global Village is a part of the UAE; the UAE was the beacon of hope throughout powerful occasions right here, serving to everybody.
“We thought, ‘Why not?’ Global Village can support the morale and the feel-good factor in the public eye. It’s very important that we say, yes, there is a problem, but you cannot stand still and do nothing. During the lockdown, we had meetings from 9 am until 10 or 11 at night; until midnight, even. We didn’t know what we were doing, honestly, at that point in time. But we were determined that something was happening. The season would open.”
“We wish to be sure that Global Village is seen as a culturally inclusive, secure place to go to. We are identified for this stuff, and we will all the time present the ‘wow’ issue for our loyal friends.
“Since we have this reputation of being a place of family happiness and safety, and since we have been getting lots of awards in this area, we thought, ‘Let’s open Global Village, but in a radically different way.’ It would look like Global Village from the outside, but has nothing to do with the old Global Village.”
Fast-tracking transformation at Global Village
They put all of the transformation programmes on a quick observe.
“We accelerated all of the transformation applications that we had for 3 years down the street. And encapsulated them in a single 12 months.
“We partnered with emaratech, the leading Emirati company in payments solutions, and we managed to roll out in six months a project that takes typically three years, to convert from a cash business to a contactless, cashless business.”
We managed to roll out in six months a challenge that takes usually three years, to transform from a money enterprise to a contactless, cashless enterprise
“It was a miracle to achieve this – except it wasn’t six months, it was the transformation that we started three years ago.”
It is, he contends, about how agile and quick you might be by way of envisioning the long run:
“It’s not about waiting for a consultant. We use data and technology. All these things are embedded in decision making. We are proud that we were awarded the British Safety Council’s ‘Sword of Honour’ in recognition of our excellent health and safety management.”
Health and security
The earlier 12 months, Global Village turned the world’s first leisure vacation spot to be awarded 5 stars within the British Safety Council’s Five-Star Occupational Health and Safety Audit.
“All these things position us in a way that the world is looking to us to see what to do,” says Anwahi. “I have been reading about theme parks opening, six months after we found ourselves in that position. We were bold enough to take this decision, which was a calculated risk and we took care of everything and tried to work with our partners and international buddies.”
“We really appreciate the learning happening around us. For example, people are typically putting in stickers which help people keeping their distance. We thought to be a bit creative here.”
Instead of the standard measures to maintain kids aside, Global Village put in large teddy bears on the seats of the Kids’ Theatre to make sure social distancing.
A brand new manner of doing occasions
“Every week we used to have a concept and our main stage,” he continues. “This time, for our 25th season, we held a virtual opening concert, in partnership with Rockin’1000, the largest rock band on earth, featuring almost 2000 artists from 80 countries. It had a big impact on the digital platform.”
The present was streamed stay on Global Village’s YouTube channel, as viewers from throughout the globe and people current at Global Village in Dubai listened.
“There is always another way,” Anwahi contends. “You cannot stop humanity; stop living. We thought we would be the pioneers of driving change, and of going forward in terms of applying these things.”
“To be honest, I have all the KPIs [key performance indicators] that you can imagine. Everything is calculated, but I ignore them all. I look at it that MPS alone is the way forward.”
(MPS is the calculation of a grasp manufacturing schedule based mostly on precise demand and the demand forecast.)
“MPS tells you a lot about your business and will boost repetitive visitation,” he explains.
“We tick all the boxes when it comes to distancing, masks, cleaning, putting in barriers, and managing the crowd overall. When we used the main stage for the first time, for example, we incorporated indicators to help with physical separation. It was Global Village from the outside, but it was quite different on the inside, during COVID.”
Tech traits at Global Village
Anwahi additionally touches on buyer expectation, and immersive and tech-driven traits:
“We are a data-driven group, and we do a number of analysis. Around 7% of our income goes into investing in surveys and studying visitor behaviours. What do they actually do, by way of what do they actually need?
“Over the past two years, VR has been trending big time. I was personally against it. I thought it was wrong for Global Village, where people come from their homes to try something based in reality.”
In addition, he feels:
“In a park with 42,000 folks, you’ll find yourself with hygiene issues. However, for the sake of the shoppers, we’ve got this experimental atmosphere. We do one thing we name a trial and error, although it’s extra of a trial and studying. We had a small tent as a walk-in attraction within the Carnival space for VR, to check the market; perhaps we’d be proved flawed; perhaps the research weren’t sufficiently conclusive for us to decide.
“We tested it, and it failed miserably, which was in line with what the data was telling us. We keep learning, and we keep asking people about what they really want.”
When the choice was made to carry edutainment to the park, Anwahi selected to associate with Ripley’s Believe It or Not!, bringing of their profitable Odditorium.
“Ripley’s was the best option for us, answering our guests’ requirements,” he says. “We selected it based on demand, and it proved to be the right decision.”
“We have come up with a new terminology for rides: family thrill.”
Until now the selection has invariably been between a thrill ride, or a family-friendly one.
“This strikes a stability between the 2. It’s for many who wish to go on a trip with their youngsters, however to have the adrenaline pushed that little bit increased. These sorts of trip work very well at Global Village.
“This is a result of our research, and of knowing exactly what people want We then put that into effect in a new project.”
The way forward for Global Village
Looking ahead, he says:
“There is nothing higher than designing and crafting the long run. With Global Village, we’re engaged on this idea, which is turning into accepted by an increasing number of folks. We would like to see extra of our idea.
“Today, we’ve got Epcot; we’ve got Global Village. I’ve a lot respect for Epcot. The future, subsequently, is to go ahead; and, and reshape the entire thing, as I mentioned, and set the proper tips of offering learn how to construct multicultural parks within the area.
“When it involves this space, we’ve got appointed two well-known corporations: Thinkwell, on the inventive facet, and Atkins as an infrastructure marketing consultant, to look into what the park growth ought to seem like. They will do a complete examine to drive the following 12 months 5 years plan, by way of what we wish to change contained in the park itself.
“We want to create more areas for new programmes, the likes of Ripley’s, for example. Global Village has reached the point where we can create our own content and programmes rather than just importing them. Ripley’s is a very well-known brand, but Global Village today is capable of building something similar.”
The Global Village Stunt Show is an instance of this:
“The artists got here from Vegas, however the remaining was achieved in-house; made in or supplied by Global Village. We do the theming, the scripts, the storylines, the lighting, the props, the PA techniques, the path.
The 2021 Stunt Show claimed two new Guinness World Records titles. ‘Most consecutive donuts in a car on a wet surface’ and ‘Most donuts around a car driving on two wheels in one minute’ had been achieved in entrance of excited onlookers on the stunt present enviornment.
“So this is something we’re aiming for,” he says. “We must work extra with our worldwide buddies and parks to endorse the idea of the multicultural park. We managed to carry round 200 executives from theme parks and locations and amusement internationally to Global Village two years in the past, and so they had been impressed with the concept.
“The future, then, is to set the rules; to create the handbook of learn how to construct extra of those sorts of idea. It’s extra sustainable, in my view, than the theme park the place your mannequin is the entry ticket.
“Our vision is to redefine the entertainment industry in the UAE itself.”
Redefining the leisure trade
With this intention in view, he explains:
“We are making ready and fascinating the group in Dubai to take part in new concepts and international budgets. For instance, we’ve got a program to focus on college college students who’re doing engineering or structure. We reward those that are creating statues or landmarks or icons, for instance.
“In the five years’ plan, we need to create a more seamless experience, more immersive; when everything starts from the gate, the parking, the ticketing system.”
“We challenged our companions, who’re a prime worldwide consultancy. According to them, there are six methods of constructing any theme park gate. We got here up with a seventh manner, and we challenged them. We mentioned, ‘Okay, let’s simulate that. Let’s see how the system would work on that.’
“We wished to create one thing like an immigration system, principally. You don’t have to attend. There are those that have pre-sold tickets already in a distinct expertise; people who find themselves buying on-site ought to have a seamless expertise, and never have to attend twice. They don’t must queue up once more to scan their tickets.
“Everything should be seamless. And we create more wonders. That is the word we like to use – wonders. Disney loves the ‘magical’ word; our word is ‘wonders’.”
Repositioning Global Village
Rebranding is one other department of the technique, says Anwahi.
“We are in the process of the rebranding exercise. We don’t know if it will go through or not, but we are working on this exercise of giving a different look and feel to the logo, and repositioning Global Village in the way that it really deserves, as a premium economy destination.”
Global Village ended its 25th season with a record-breaking firework show.