Dr. Abdulla Al Humaidi heads the ownership group that will help bring to life the latest (and largest) theme park in the United Kingdom. What’s being called “The London Resort” will encompass 465 hectares of themed lands, hotels, event centers and more. For a perspective of just how large the park will be, 465 hectares would fit 651 soccer fields.
Pierre-Yves Gerbeau is Chief Executive of The London Resort Company. He, along with Chairman Steven Norris, is joined by an executive team, a collection of consultants, and an advisory board. For Abdulla Al Humaidi, this is the team that will bring the park to fruition.
For the United Kingdom, The London Resort will join a long, historic line of theme park development. With origins dating to the 18th century, England’s park and fairground heritage are among the richest in the world. That history is far from lost on PY Gerbeau, Abdulla Al Humaidi and the rest of the ownership group.
When the London Resort opens, most attendees won’t be familiar with the tradition the park is joining. Yet even today, reminders abound.
Blackpool Pleasure Beach in Lancashire and Dreamland in Margate are both late 19th-century English theme parks still standing. In fact, England has six of the 35 rollercoasters worldwide that were built before 1939 and are still standing today. Yet the true origins of England’s theme parks predate the advent of the roller coaster. Annual fairs and what were called “pleasure gardens” were essentially the traditional precursors to modern amusement parks.
Annual fairs began as mainly commercial concerns. As early as the 1200s, fairs were held in temporary structures where villagers could trade and enjoy entertainment. By the 18th century, the commerciality of the fairs gave way to entertainment. Traveling attractions, like circuses and menageries, became the main event. In the late 1800s, George Sanger gained prominence as a circus and menageries owner and eventually put down roots in Margate. His permanent fair became the direct antecedent of not just Dreamland at Margate, but the modern amusement park itself.
London’s pleasure gardens, which first appeared in the 17th century, quickly proliferated. By the 18th century, London was home to over 60 gardens. These attractions often featured concert halls, bowling greens, archery, refreshment rooms, and more. And they inspired development well outside London at seaside resorts, including in Margate. Raikes Hall Gardens, in fact, was essentially an amusement park before amusement parks. On offer at Raikes were circus acts, acrobats, dancing, and fireworks. And in a bit of parallelism with Abdulla Al Humaidi’s London resort, the garden also had a Grand Pavilion that accommodated 10,000 attendees. As it happens, Raikes was located just a few kilometers from where Blackpool Pleasure Beach was eventually developed.
Of course, technology being what it was, these parks were a far cry from modern wonders. But in the late 1800s and early 1900s, following their adoption at Coney Island, roller coasters started to spread. Through slow but steady progress and further technological advancements, it became possible to create something like The London Resort.
Many years will have to pass for The London Resort to accrue the kind of heritage promised at Blackpool or Dreamland. But for what it lacks in history—for now—the resort more than makes up for in rides, attractions, and accommodation. And even with its shiny veneer, The London Resort pays homage to English theme parks of years past.
The first sign of English heritage is in the park’s entrance. In a nod to British nostalgia, Abdulla Al Humaidi and his team designed a grand entrance called High Street. There, visitors will be treated to restaurants, entertainment, and themed shops. From High Street, parkgoers will enter the first of the park’s seven themed lands. The lands will encompass a wide range of themes including:
Also on the park grounds will be four hotels, accommodating 3550 rooms, and a covered water park. The resort is scheduled to open in 2024 and partners include Disney, BBC, ITV, and Paramount Studios. Also included is an eSports area with three stories of technology exhibits, gaming attractions, and a 3000-seat arena.
Abdulla Al Humaidi and his ownership group made a savvy hire in PY Gerbeau. The executive has come to be a modern force in England’s long history of theme park entertainment.
After a career as a professional hockey player, Gerbeau turned his focus to business. He quickly made a name for himself in English entertainment, helping to turn around Euro Disney in the early 1990s. After Euro Disney, Gerbeau joined the New Millennium Experience Company which operates the Millenium Dome. Again, Gerbeau was credited with helping to turn around the Millennium Dome which struggled before he arrived. Gerbeau further added to his growing legacy of English entertainment when he became the operator of the Xscape centers. Then, in June 2019, Gerbeau joined the London Resort Company. He simply couldn’t pass on the opportunity to develop what will be the United Kingdom’s premier theme park destination.
Thus far, The London Resort has been Gerbeau’s crown jewel. And if he and Abdulla Al Humaidi have their way, the park will also be the crown jewel of British entertainment. Along with its place in history, the resort will create thousands of jobs for the surrounding communities. Also, with the park attracting legions of tourists, the neighborhoods surrounding the parks will likely draw new investors. Plus, to help support the park, new infrastructure will be built along with enhancements to the River Thames area. All indications are that history will be kind to Gerbeau, Al Humaidi, and The London Resort.