Fun times at Ferrari World

Laurent and Keeling explain how Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is revving up

Ferrari World Abu Dhabi sales director Fabien Laurent  in a car-fully constructed pose.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi sales director Fabien Laurent in a car-fully constructed pose.

Fabien Laurent and Andy Keeling tell Harriet Sinclair how Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is revving up for business.

It is possible that Fabien Laurent and Andy Keeling have the best jobs in the world. Marketing fast cars to a nation obsessed with fast cars and working in a theme park seem too good to be true.

Keeling and Laurent have been in their respective trades for a number of years, and working in Ferrari World appears to be a career high for both — there is certainly something to be said for being able to drive Ferraris in your spare time.

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But Ferrari World Abu Dhabi doesn’t just appeal to staff, but also the steady stream of visitors which Laurent says have been pouring in since it opened it’s doors less than a year ago.

Promoting the theme park has taken place in the form of billboards, media and television adverts — initially targeting the regional market.

“We have concentrated on the Middle East,” says Laurent, “But of course eventually we will be marketing Ferrari World Abu Dhabi beyond that and looking to attract visitors from European cities such as London. We are another good reason for them to visit Abu Dhabi.”

The decision to build in Abu Dhabi was undoubtedly strategic and has been beneficial to both Ferrari World and to Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) who works closely with the park.

“The UAE, and Abu Dhabi particularly, is in a tremendous development phase so personally, I see a lot of diversification of the economy going on and one of those diversifications is clearly the leisure industry,” Keeling says.

“So what better than having a unique theme park with a very, very strong brand built in Abu Dhabi? It is Ferrari World Abu Dhabi — it is the only Ferrari World, we are unique, we have a powerful brand, we have been built in a city which has the 2030 plan to develop its economy, develop Abu Dhabi and we fit nicely in too — there is now one more reason to come to Abu Dhabi — to visit our theme park and I’m sure that’s a strategic plan and not just a coincidence.”

Fitting in to a locally competitive price bracket is important for the park since visitors to Ferrari World are GCC nationals who are well versed in what to pay for theme park entry, as well as tourists who certaintly don’t want to pay over the odds for attractions.

“We came up with a price that reflects local market price for world class facilities [general admission tickets are AED 225 (US$ 61.3) for adults and AED 165 ($45) for kids].

If you compare us to Wild Wadi or Atlantis, which are very different entities but still world-class, you’ll see that we fit nicely in to that category.”

“We get a real mix of visitors and it is very much driven by what day of the week or time of the year it is. A fantastic example is Fridays — we have much fewer GCC demographic visitors before the main prayer time is over at 1.30pm and then we will start to see how visitors of the Muslim faith come in later on. These things are typical of the region — much like with the shopping malls.

“The different nationalities and groups have their own peak times and holiday times, the different countries that are close to us have their own times so our attendance really reflects what would be a typical mix if you look at the school calendars, national holiday calendars in the region and so on,” adds Keeling.

The Ferrari brand
Another entity for Ferrari World Abu Dhabi to take in to consideration is that of Ferrari itself. Although Ferrari World is a franchise of Ferrari, and not run by the company itself, the power of the brand reigns supreme, and it is the Ferrari name that pulls in the guests, from petrol heads to kids obsessed with cars.

Since Ferrari is a label known for its state-of-the-art vehicles, there is no doubt that Ferrari World Abu Dhabi has quite a standard to maintain.

“I don’t know if everybody sees it this way but for me it is good to work with a partner that is very demanding,” insists Keeling.

“Working for Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, we know that we have to do the best possible job, we know that there are exact standards we have to work to but in some ways that makes it easier. Ferrari didn’t become the world’s leading Grand Prix manufacturing championship winner for nothing,” he says.

“They have the reputation and a place in history that they have because they are extremely passionate and demanding about what they do — and they are the same with us. But as a partner they also listen to our needs so we have been able to develop a very healthy partnership with them,” says Keeling.

Demanding Ferrari may be, but this attention to detail is clearly paying off. After just 100 days since opening the doors to the park, Ferrari World is drawing in the crowds — from local housewives, to Ferrari fans to tour groups, to residents, and of course the sports obsessed.

But once they have ridden the world’s fastest roller coaster and seen all the Ferrari paraphernalia which provides the signature of the park — are they likely to return?

“You have to keep doing new things” concludes Keeling. “It’s about providing another attraction, another ride and something that will make people want to come back.”

Ferrari World facts
• Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is the largest indoor theme park in the world
• It is also the only Ferrari World
• Formula Rossa is the fastest roller coaster in the world — reaching speeds of 240 km per hour
• Ferrari World Abu Dhabi has the largest space frame structure ever built with a total of approximately 172,000 members and 43,100 nodes

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