Enter the world of immersive entertainment: Is AI the gamechanger?

November 1, 2023
News Highlights
  • AI has the potential to add $320 billion to the Middle East economy by 2030, PwC estimates.
  • The global leisure and entertainment is projected to grow at 9% touching the $89-billion-mark in 2023, according to AI Consulting Group
  • To 47% of Saudi consumers, experiences matter more than possessions, therein making a strong case for AI-powered immersive experiences, indicates a GfK study.
  • AI underpins efficiency and innovation, empowering leisure & entertainment operators to create memorable – and personalised – guest experiences.
  • Importantly, with the right training AI can detect potential hazards in advance, ensuring guest safety and preventing the possibility of ride downtime by prompting the need for preventative maintenance.


October 31 2023, Dubai, UAE: What if you could defeat Peter Parker during an action-packed mission by shooting webs from your wrist? That’s been a reality with Spider-Man W.E.B. Adventure, a centrepiece attraction in Disneyland. Hand tracking hardware enabled with artificial intelligence (AI) takes the experience a notch higher predicting where the webs would land if fired in real life. No wonder, the global leisure and entertainment is projected to grow at 9% touching the $89-billion-mark in 2023, according to AI Consulting Group. Meanwhile, leisure and entertainment projects worth over $41 billion are currently underway in the Middle East, as indicated by ABiQ.

If anything, the leisure and entertainment industry has risen like a phoenix post-pandemic – smarter and more resilient.

A large part of the growth projection, however, hinges on consistently strong footfall at leisure and entertainment facilities achieved through high engagement, immersive and personalised experiences. To curate such experiences, the industry is warming up to AI. With several advancements and more awareness, many MENALAC Member operators have now started using AI for more diverse functions, going beyond just rides. These include but are not limited to tracking visitor movement to ensure ease of traffic even during peak periods, analysing purchase behaviour through AI-enabled wristbands, as well as generating real-time reports on rides ensuring operational efficiency and guest safety.

In addition, at a time when most operators have a mobile app, AI can be leveraged to create highly personalised content for guests based on their preferences ensuring meaningful interaction even beyond the facility. “AI is an innovation that has truly surpassed all borders, emerging as the fastest-adopted technology in history. At Miral, we have witnessed first-hand how such technological innovations deliver real value, enabling us to revolutionise the leisure, entertainment and tourism industry and position Yas Island as a top global destination for entertainment and leisure,stated Raed Kuhail, Executive Director of Digital and Technology, Miral, a MENALAC Member. Adding more, he explained, “A combination of first-party data, AI, machine learning and data analytics is the key to powering our hyper-personalised, frictionless and memorable guest experiences. Be it through our ‘Noor Initiative’, a decision analytics strategy; FacePass, our facial recognition technology within Yas Theme Parks; our recent partnership with Microsoft that leverages ChatGPT for a customer-facing generative AI; as well as upcoming plans to enhance chatbot capabilities to handle ticketing sales, and exploring advanced AI technologies such as Continuous Machine Learning (CML) across our wider operations.

AI’s predictive capabilities, when coupled with human expertise can be a force to reckon with, making way for sustainable demand creation through strategic marketing and trend forecasting.

For instance, a recent GfK study found that experiences are more important than possessions for 47% of Saudi consumers, as they aspire to explore and indulge in the world outside of home. This calls for brands to leverage “unrivalled data science and business intelligence expertise and AI-backed technology” to create news ways of driving growth, the study mentioned.

With the ‘experience’ space holding huge growth potential, meaningful collaborations between leisure and entertainment operators and AI enablers could be a gamechanger. However, despite the obvious positive impact of AI on businesses, there are challenges too.

Some of the significant barriers to AI adoption include budget restrictions, difficulty in demonstrating business value and a desire for quick return on investment. Another roadblock is the lack of expertise in understanding and leveraging AI in the most effective and ethical manner.