Affordability matters most

This year’s Cityscape Global Exhibition and Conference is forecast to be the largest yet and comes at a time when Dubai’s Real Estate industry is expected to start entering a cyclical growth phase in the lead up to the World Expo 2020.

The importance of Cityscape Global cannot be overstated. As with many exhibitions, it provides a concentrated and focused forum which allows the industry to showcase its vision and capabilities and demonstrate what shape Dubai will take in the future. But Cityscape is much more than that.

Cityscape Global is an open invitation for all stake-holders to understand, evaluate, participate and prosper in an industry that continues to literally change the shape of Dubai. It is a meeting place of some of the biggest and brightest minds representing all stakeholders in the industry and a confluence of opinions, ideas and opportunities which are shared, debated and developed. It allows stakeholders to gain a macro sense of in-dusty direction and a micro understanding of the various elements that will shape the industry going forward.

For buyers and investors, there is no better place to gain an appreciation of the myriad of opportunities that are on offer, but the sheer scale of the exhibition can become a little overwhelming, especially when you are looking to invest.

As a general theme for this year’s Cityscape, I will be advising most of my investors to look for value opportunities in the affordable housing segment, particularly in the Dubai South areas, as this segment in this location is likely to be the subject of some very attractive easy payment plans to further enhance affordability and, to some extent, mitigate risk.

This segment has outperformed its more luxurious alternatives for some time now and continues to show lots of potential, even though the recent cyclical correction. Affordable properties will continue to be on high demand as Dubai’s population growth gains momentum during a period of expected strong economic growth leading up to the end of the decade. And while the value is irrefutable, the risks associated with investing in the affordable segments of the industry as opposed to the luxury segments are much lower. Demand for affordable accommodation will continue to grow as Dubai’s population swells in the run up to the Expo. As Dubai continues to grow, so does the need for affordable housing.

Yet, although I see great value in investing in the affordable segment, it doesn’t mean some interesting opportunities won’t appear in other segments as well.

So, while you might focus on identifying opportunities in the affordable segment, you need to keep an open mind and be wary of unique opportunities that may be present.

I always advise my clients that the best way to get the most out of the event, is to canvass all the interesting opportunities on display and gradually yet efficiently establish a short list of the best opportunities.

Establishing such a list from an exhibition as huge as Cityscape is not easy and requires a disciplined approach. This is where a property asset management professional can assist…

Why? It’s important to understand what factors are going determine the potential of any investment. For property, these factors include everything from macro level influences such as global economic performance and policies, geopolitical issues, currency rates and oil prices to more regional or local factors such as industry supply I demand levels, consumer confidence, government policy and regulatory framework, industry cycles and liquidity in the marketplace.

So, in reality, a lot of the work in ensuring that investors and potential buyers make the most of their Cityscape experience is actually done beforehand in preparing an understanding of what the overall investment environment looks like. This enables a more efficient and focused assessment of all that is on offer.

But in addition to understanding the invest environment, it’s important for the investor to understand why he or she wants to invest in property and what the investment objectives are. Too many investors formulate the answers to these questions “on the run”, once they are traipsing around the exhibition. This lack of preparation just leads to confusion and ultimately, poor decision making.

Every industry has its shows, whether it’s the myriad of motor shows held around the world, film festivals, fashion events, airshows and the property industry is no different. What many don’t understand is that Dubai’s Cityscape Global has established itself as one of the best Real Estate and Property events globally… and its right on our very own doorstep!

So, for those of us with a passion for the industry, it is going to be an exciting 3 days. It always seems to end too early!

Theme Parks, Ahoy!

By Mohanad Alwadiya
CEO, Harbor Real Estate
Senior Advisor & Instructor, Dubai Real Estate Institute

Well, Dubai has done it again!!

The latest addition to a city already swelling with entertainment and activity alternatives is the IMG Worlds of Adventure. This amusement park took three years to build and cost more than 3.6 billion dirhams. To be labelled “the world’s largest indoor theme park” is no idle boast, with the complex covering over 1.5 million square feet or around 20 times the size of the pitch at Emirates Stadium in London.

And, wait for it… there is more to come…

The next six months should see an even bigger development which, built at a cost approaching 10 billion dirhams, will include such entertainment icons as LEGOLAND and Bollywood, and a giant water park.

Dubai has always considered tourism to be a key, increasingly successful and lucrative pillar to the economy, but -the latest additions to its suite of attractions are taking the emirates’ capability to satisfy the appetite of those who pursue world-class entertainment and amusement to a whole new level.

The new theme parks will play a key role in ensuring the emirates’ target of 20 million visitors will be visiting the emirate annually from 2021 will be achieved. Very impressive stuff!

But the reason why I love these latest theme parks is not because I enjoy rollercoaster rides… I will leave that to the more adventurous. I am excited at the effect these fantastic initiatives will have on the economy and, more specifically, the property industry that is so close to my heart.

From an economic point of view, this is very serious business indeed!

Aside from the obvious direct benefits of tens of billions of dirhams being invested into the economy, few people realize the enormous economic contribution theme parks make to the overall economy post launch. It is a cliché, but the world is a small place and the war for providing entrepreneurial and employment opportunities is waged on a global battleground, and a successful entertainment and amusement industry is just one economic weapon that Dubai can employ to great effect.

And being a global growth industry, participation cannot be ignored. Consider the following figures sourced from the TEA/AECOM 2015 Theme Index and Museum Index:

In 2015, there were…

… 420 million visits to attractions run by the Top 10 global theme park groups, up by 7.2 percent.
… 236 million visits to the Top 25 amusement/theme parks worldwide, up by 5.4 percent.
… 146 million visits to the Top 20 amusement/theme parks in North America, up by 5.9 percent.
… 131 million visits to the Top 20 amusement/theme parks in Asia-Pacific, up by 6.9 percent.
… 61 million visits to the Top 20 amusement/theme parks in Europe, Middle East and Africa, up by 2.8 percent.
… 29 million visits to the Top 20 water parks worldwide, up by 3.7 percent.

In a world that is struggling to generate any form of impressive economic growth, the growth within this industry is truly commendable.

Without a doubt, the current world leader with regard to amusement parks is the southern US state of Florida. It’s a fact that theme parks are a major reason why people visit this American state. Here are the top theme parks in Florida and the number of annual visitors they attracted in 2014 according to the TEA/AECOM Theme and Museum Index:

… Magic Kingdom – 19.3 million
… Epcot -11.5 million
… Disney’s Animal Kingdom – 10.4 million
… Disney Hollywood Studios – 10.3 million
… Universal Studios – 8.2 million
… Islands of Adventure at Universal Studios – 8.1 million
… SeaWorld – 4.7 million
… Busch Gardens Tampa Bay – 4.1 million

Truly impressive numbers which only highlight just how the economic advantages that are created by having such a robust entertainment industry is staggering. The state estimates tourism brings in a whopping $82 billion in visitor spending while the State Department of Economic Opportunity says that of the approximately 9.1 million workers in Florida, 1.1 million of them hold jobs directly attributed to tourism. That’s better than 1 worker in 10!

Obviously, the job creation potential of this industry, both direct and indirect, is staggering… which is why I love amusement parks.

Most commentators would relate to the increased building activity that such projects would create; however, the true long-term value of these projects lies in the long-term economic advantages of employing people and creating commercial activities in order to develop a unique capability to entertain the families and youth of the region and beyond.

The local market offers significant opportunity. The GCC, with a total population of just over 40 million people, has one of the youngest populations in the world. Approximately 50 percent of the population in the Arabian Peninsula is below 25 years of age. What a wonderful opportunity this represents for Dubai! The possibility exists for the construction of the only mega family entertainment destination in over 2,500,000 square kilometres of territory. From an economic point of view, the provision of memorable entertainment experiences for the youth and families of the region will have a multiplier effect on the economy as a whole, including the real estate industry.