As reported by EMAN EL-SHENAWI – AL ARABIYA
Egypt. Hot sands. Pyramids. A camel or two. A protestor or a few. Now throw into the mix a few icy slopes, not the metaphorical kind that you’d expect to read about in the country’s recent political troubles, but actual slopes, and actual snow.
Welcome to Ski Egypt.
No need to go to the Alps. Or Lebanon. Or Colorado. Or the Himalayas. Or the Andes. In three years’ time, you will be able to arrange a scorching Red Sea resort trip and stop by Egypt’s ski slopes—a stark twist to the country’s sand swept background.
But sweltering in the heat after freezing your toes off for fun is not a new experience for those who have visited Dubai’s freeze fest—Ski Dubai. The Egypt offering will share similar traits to Dubai’s indoor ski resort—and will also share the same big shot developer.
The man behind Ski Dubai and some of the city’s biggest shopping malls, Majid Al Futtaim, is pushing toward developing Egypt’s attractions and has eyed the North African country as a key market, a senior executive told The National. The Majid Al Futtaim Leisure Group plans to open the snow park by 2014.
“It’s going to be more of a snow park, but there’s going to be a slope element,” said Arnaud Palu, Chief Executive Officer of Majid Al Futtaim Leisure. The venue’s provisional name is Ski Egypt, he added.
Ski Egypt is a part of Majid Al Futtaim’s 4.4 billion Egyptian pound ($741 million) Mall of Egypt project. Although the design has not yet been finalized, it will not be as large as the 400-meter slope in Dubai, nor would it have a black run, the newspaper reported.
The United Arab Emirates’ Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort that opened in 2005. It has 9,000 square meters of indoor ski area inside Dubai’s Mall of the Emirates and is also operated by the Majid Al Futtaim Leisure.
And now it’s Egypt’s turn.
The company has two malls already operational in Egypt and is “very actively” looking at other opportunities in the country, Mr. Palu said.
“Egypt is definitely one of the biggest markets we are going after,” he said.
In-mall attractions are a growing, cost-effective alternative to standalone theme parks with a higher chance of survival, Mr. Palu said.
“Unlike the GCC, quality shopping centers in Egypt and the Levant are fairly limited,” the consultancy firm Jones Lang LaSalle said in a report in April 2011.
“Although current political uncertainties may have implications on project deliveries in Egypt, significant opportunities for further retail development or expansion remain.
“Older malls that lack ‘pull’ factors such as entertainment and food and beverage options will ultimately suffer and some may be converted to non-retail uses,” Jones Lang LaSalle added.
The consultancy said that malls in the Middle East must strengthen their entertainment appeal or risk closure, warning that retail must be mixed with leisure outlets. And indeed, in-mall attractions have proved to be the “wow” factor developer group Majid Al Futtaim Leisure had hoped for—the indoor ski slope attracts about 800,000 visitors a year.
Bringing the “wow” to “now” Egypt won’t be hard. The North African country welcomes leisure attractions with open arms, particularly those that may encourage a boost to tourism, one of Egypt’s main sources of revenues which earned the country $5.58 billion in the first half of 2010 alone.
In-mall attractions are sweeping across the region and the future of malls with an entertainment-retail mix looks to be hopeful. But this could leave observers wondering what developers will be planning next—how will they entertain us when “wow” loses its novelty?