. . with breathtaking views from The ShardThe famous HMS Belfast, a WWII fighting ship, looked like a child’s toy on the River Thames below. In the distance the illuminated Tower Bridge twinkled like a party decoration. That’s because we were viewing them from the Ren Room of the Shangri-La Hotel located on the 35th floor of the 87-storey Shard, London’s newest skyscraper.
ITCM was one of the guests at the Dubai Business Events UK Roadshow on Tuesday, 9th September, the first of three to be held this week in London and Manchester. Our hosts were a dozen of the key players on the MICE scene in Dubai, including hotels, DMCs, venues and, of course, the Dubai Convention & Events Bureau (DCEB). This is part of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
The evening was a heady mix of networking with many of the top UK event agencies; getting the latest updates from the Dubai suppliers; enjoying drinks and tasty canapés; as well as gazing down through the extensive windows at so many of London’s most famous landmarks.
There was also a Draw for a bevy of desirable travel prizes, not least two Emirates airline tickets and four nights across two 5-star hotels in Dubai.
There was a party atmosphere but the event also provided an insight into the remarkable progress of Dubai as a destination.
Whenever travellers gather at a Gulf-focussed occasion, there is usually the question of whether or not you have stayed at the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, which is almost a badge of achievement. But it is strange to think that it has been celebrating its 15th birthday; that for so many years now it has been the symbol of Dubai’s pre-eminence as a modern, luxurious travel destination. A whole new destination has grown up around it and soon it will also be neighbour to the new mega-project, Mall of the World. We were given a brief but fascinating summary of how far Dubai has come in a presentation by Walid Marhoon, Senior Executive of Congress Development at the DCEB. His Emirati robes and head-dress added very much to the flavour of what he had to tell us.
Saying that the Dubai hotel industry is booming no longer news, but it is a remarkable fact that, recession or not, it has been booming for over 20 years. It has grown rapidly to provide 20% of the Emirate’s GDP.
Walid is fortunate in having so many ready-made amazing examples to include in a presentation about progress. He cited: ‘the Armani Hotel in the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa; JW Marriott Marquis in Business Bay, officially the world’s tallest hotel; Atlantis The Palm at the peak of Palm Jumeirah, one of the world’s largest artificial islands; as well as The Address in The Dubai Mall, the biggest shopping mall on the planet. Dubai’s determination to constantly break new ground and reach new heights makes it a hugely attractive location for hoteliers – and ensures visitors keep returning.’ He was able to quote that in the past 15 years as many as 256 hotel properties have been built in Dubai, reaching a total of 634 establishments boasting 88,680 keys.
The great achievement of Dubai is that the increase of facilities has grown in proportion to the increase in demand, so both sides of the equation are happy. The first six months of 2014 welcomed a record number of 5.8m tourists, with an increasing average length of stay, greater spend on f&b and an 84% level of occupancy in hotels and hotel apartments. The year 2014 is expected to show a 7.5% overall tourism growth, reaching a total of 11.95m overnight international visitors.
Growth in the mid-market segment of the industry has been prompted by tax incentives, so the balance has been maintained with the increase in the luxury sector.
Dubai’s growth shows no signs of slowing. Walid had lots of news to report: ‘In the coming months’, he went on, ‘ new hotels due to open include Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach and the Palazzo Versace Dubai hotel on the Creek. On the more distant horizon are a slew of new openings across all segments of the market, including a Middle East debut by Langham Hospitality Group, Meraas Holding and Emaar Properties’ mid-market joint venture Dubai Inn, a boutique-style hotel by luxury lifestyle label Tonino Lamborghini and many, many more.
‘With new leisure attractions such as Wire World, Legoland, the expansion of Madinat Jumeirah, plus mega-projects including Bluewaters Island and Mall of the World all in the pipeline, hotel demand in Dubai can only increase. And it’s clear’, he concluded, ‘ that the industry is more than capable of meeting that demand’