Augusta Entertainment Games that recently opened a Go-Karting facility at the RAK mall, are highly optimistic about the future of entertainment and gaming industry in the UAE. In a chat with Robust RAK, Piero Gresino, chairman of the company, discloses his reasons for selecting Ras Al Khaimah, their experience of working in the emirate and how they are planning to leverage RAK’s tourism and industrial hub potential.
Q: Can you tell us about your company and how it began its journey in the UAE?
A: Augusta Entertainment Games LLC is the sister company of Augusta Re Consulting FZ-LLC which is the real entity behind this new drifting kart concept. It was founded in 2012 and it is owned by a group of Italian entrepreneurs who, after many years of operation in the GCC, have developed innovative entertainment-sporting areas that can stimulate people’s innate passion for motors sports. Augusta Re Consulting FZ-LLC operates in partnership with several Italian companies specialized in manufacturing karts, barriers and unique flooring for drifting. Thanks to this joint-venture, Augusta has already conceived and developed outdoor race kart circuits in various European countries.
Q:Why did you decide to set up your company in Ras Al Khaimah and not any other Emirate such as Dubai or Abu Dhabi?
A: Ras Al Khaimah is a growing emirate and in the last few years it has been focusing on the tourism sector. We have been often hearing that Dubai has the biggest mall, the tallest tower in the world and hence we thought we should do something unique in another emirate and Ras Al Khaimah was the perfect choice. It offers an outstanding natural environment which is not common in the UAE: mountains, oasis, together with pristine sea waters. Ras Al Khaimah also comprises of a high percentage of nationals as compared to the other emirates and it is a well known fact that Arabs, both young and old are fond of sport cars. Their affection for cars was the prime reason we thought we should establish a Go-Kart Racing circuit in the RAK mall. Now, when we see local teenagers drifting Karts they seem like they are professional drivers racing to win a championship!
Q: What type of audience does your company cater to?
A: As mentioned earlier, our target audience is families—local as well as tourists. Since youngsters are fond of motor sports and high on the adrenaline levels, we are promoting the circuit amongst them. The minimum height requirement to use the rides is 1.25 metres and above. In addition, constant monitoring of the circuit by professional go-karting experts ensures the safety of the drivers at all times.
Q: Have you taken inspiration from other world racing circuits for this project?
A: The Go-K circuit is inspired by a similar Drifting Kart Circuit developed in Italy close to the Lake of Garda in the world famous GARDALAND Entertainment Park. GO-K facility features a first-of-a-kind flooring for electric go-karts that simulates driving on snow. It is Middle East’s first-ever in-mall Drifting Karts circuit.
Q:How do you find the entertainment/games industry? How fierce is the competition?
A: Actually we do not have any competitors right now in the Middle East region. There are other circuits in shopping malls with petrol engine karts riding on smooth surfaces but none of them can be compared to our eco-friendly set-up as well as our “skiddy” flooring that truly gives you the feeling as if you are driving on “ice”.
Q: What best practices and innovative strategies have you adopted to tackle the competition?
A: Even if we do not believe we have “real” competitors as said above, we do feel we need to make all Ras Al Khaimah inhabitants aware of our permanent presence in the RAK Mall. Hence we are trying our best to inform everybody through indoor and outdoor marketing. The advertising campaign will go on at least up to Christmas time. Till that time, we will continue to have new offers and promotions to trigger constant interest towards Go-K Complex.
Q:Ras Al Khaimah is evolving as a weekend getaway destination. As an entertainment provider who is also dependent on the tourism sector, how would you describe RAK’s potential as tourist destination?
A: RAK offers an outstanding natural environment which is not common in the UAE: mountains, oasis, together with pristine sea waters. We see an excellent potential and we are confident we will be able to leverage the potential and the opportunities to create a unique gaming experience and also contribute to RAK’s tourism sector through our project.
Q: Is it difficult to tap this potential? Have you faced any difficulties to tap this potential?
A: The fact Ras Al Khaimah is, as you said, “a weekend gateway destination” has positive and negative aspects. In the weekly days, especially in the morning and early afternoon, Go-K Circuit is not so crowded this is why in September we are going to open our complex to RAK Secondary and High Schools to let all students test their driving abilities on our drifting karts. On weekends, on the other hand, it gets crowded and it is amazing to see both adults and kids perform exciting races with never ending drifts, counter-steers, and overtakes.
Q: Since your establishment in RAK, how has the response been from the audience? Do you find a lot of families coming to your projects?
A: Yes, mostly on Thursdays and Fridays, there are many families coming to visit us. On weekends we are open up to midnight and after the official launching, especially on Fridays, we are having many people queuing and waiting for their turn to drift.
Q:There is a growing number of families from Dubai and Abu Dhabi who make a bee-line on weekends to go to Ras Al Khaimah? Are there any special plans to cater to these families?
A: In addition to enjoying GO-K Drifting Kart Circuit, families who come to visit us can also savour the taste of Italian hospitality at the Go-K Café, which features a selection of some of the most exotic Italian coffees, cakes, snacks and savouries made from the finest ingredients. The café is also the meeting point for all race enthusiasts who can enjoy the hospitality while watching drifting karts drivers in action.
Q: Several top hotel chains have set up their properties in RAK and a rising number of hotel giants are eyeing this emirate. Are you planning to team up with these hotels to offer unique experiences to customers or tourists coming to RAK?
A: Yes, indeed. We are going to open cooperation agreements with most of Ras Al Khaimah Hotels & Resorts to offer their customers weekly race experience. We will also offer special rate to the biggest RAK industrial and commercial companies’ employees as well as the possibility of arranging parties, corporate meetings and catering also for special family events requests.
Q: Do you have any expansion plans in 2014? Any other regions in the UAE you are looking at to set up new properties?
A: We believe we should first consolidate our activity here in Ras Al Khaimah to evaluate how the market is responding to this new experience. However, we do not exclude the possibility to open a similar circuit in other Emirates and GCC Countries in the forthcoming future.
Q: According to you, what is the future of entertainment/games industry in the UAE?
A: UAE entertainment industry will flourish thanks to three main peculiarities: demographics, youth population and the region’s strong gaming culture. Though there is an abundance of fun parks for children and young people in Ras Al Khaimah, it would be ever important to cater to the need for gaming in young adults and also people in their thirties or forties as Ras Al Khaimah is drawing tourists and expatriates from all over the world.