Themed projects in demand


UAE: Local themed contracting company Sim Leisure Design has moved forward with projects following the announcement of Dubai’s Expo 2020.

“Since the announcement, projects that were discussed prior to the announcement have picked up pace. We have also since been approached for a couple of large projects…I can say that one of the more exciting projects we have been approached for after the announcement is a new themed night club, which we will be doing a complete turnkey design for,” explained Sim Leisure business manager Josie Booth.

Sim Leisure creates full thematic design packages, from master planning, to conceptual drawings, space planning and detailed schematic designs. The company also provides full turnkey design solutions, which enables it to work with a database of specialist contractors and specialist design firms.


Originally Malaysian, Sim Leisure opened its Dubai office in 2009 to work on small projects with existing clients; however, in 2010, the firm began working on Yas Water World. As of today, the firm’s work can be seen in international markets from Armenia to Vietnam, Bahrain to Indonesia.

Its portfolio includes commercial attractions like indoor water parks, themed spas and restaurants, and many others. Sim Leisure Design has completed Universal Studios, Singapore; Hard Rock Hotel, Malaysia; Legoland, Malaysia; the Atlantis Hotel, UAE; 1001 Arabian Nights Resort, UAE; and The Snow Penguins, Ski Dubai.

Booth said: “Theming allows designs to be more unique and designers to be more creative. It isn’t just fake rocks, trees and theme parks.

Theming involves design features like oversized pencils, scissors and origami paper cranes hanging on a wall in a nursery, a restaurant that looks like you are eating in a bistro on an old Italian street, a hotel facade that looks like it is 1000 years old, a spa that makes you think you are in a secret cave or a nightclub that gives you the impression you are under the sea.

It is combining ordinary design with extraordinary creativity, but also knowing how these elements and spaces will be built.

“Because Sim Leisure started as a contracting company, we have the knowledge to design these unique elements with the ability for them to be built. The most important component of theming design is making sure the pretty picture can actually become a reality, and this is done by leveraging our construction experience in conjunction with our in-house engineers, architects and designers.”

Sim Leisure competes mostly against international thematic design firms, as there isn’t a large network of such firms in Dubai. According to Booth, while there are other themed contracting companies, none have the in-house capabilities as Sim Leisure.

The announcement of Expo 2020 is expected to have a large impact on the theming design industry in Dubai, as more companies and individuals will be looking for new ways to stand out against competitors to accommodate the increase in tourism.

“There is already an increase in theme park projects being discussed, and I think this will only escalate since the announcement of Expo 2020. People will want to maximise the opportunity of increased tourists in the area.

I also think there will be an increase in the number of themed hotels and restaurants as brands and companies want to be able to set themselves apart from the rest. I expect we will see a lot of existing establishments updating and improving their current space so they can maximise revenue and compete with new establishments with the coming Expo,” said Booth.

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