Building for the future

Burj Khalifa Dubai Picture by umarshariff/123RF.com

New and upcoming infrastructure, all with extensive event facilities, are helping Dubai to achieve its tourism vision, writes Shekhar Niyogi

Dubai has established a new tourism visiton for 2020, which aims to welcome 20 million visitors per year – including 1.9 million international business visitors – by the end of the decade. Supporting this ambitious goal is the recent emergence of new tourism developments that are drawing the interest of international business event planners.

One of the destination’s most prominent newbies is the 72-storey, 355m high JW Marriott Marquis Hotel. Said to be the world’s tallest hotel, the property has won over event organisers with its massive inventory of 1,608 rooms and suites, and almost 8,000m2 of indoor and outdoor event spaces.

Its general manager Rupprecht Queitsch told TTGmice: “Since opening in February 2013 we have hosted more than 1,700 meetings of 10 people or more, worth US$24.4 million.”

Queitsch opined that Dubai now “ranks alongside (business event) destinations such as Orlando, Las Vegas and Shanghai”, which all offer hotels with mammoth inventories to cater for large-scale meetings.

Also making its debut in 2013 is Conrad Dubai. The 555-room hotel in the heart of Dubai’s financial and shopping district offers 4,400m2 of event space spanning three ballrooms, 11 meeting rooms and a business centre. One of the ballrooms is equipped with an indoor elevator large enough to transport vehicles, making the venue ideal for car launches.

The Oberoi, Dubai, which welcomed its first guests in June 2013, also caters well for business events. It has 252 rooms and suites, a grand ballroom that can be divided into three sections, nine meeting rooms and an executive boardroom with a private terrace.

Come 2016, Dubai will see the completion of the US$3 billion Al Habtoor City project on Sheikh Zayed Road. Spanning 929,030m2, the entertainment and hospitality development will comprise three hotels operated by Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide and under the brands St Regis, W and Westin; a standalone theatre; the world’s first Bentley Café & Boutique which will come with a car display area; a classical French-style garden; and a tennis academy with a clubhouse.

It is expected to transform the city’s Business Bay and Dubai Water Canal district into a prime meetings hub due to its extensive event and accommodation facilities and close proximity to the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

According to Al Habtoor Group chairman, Khalaf Al Habtoor, the massive development will also enable Dubai to better compete with top business event destinations like New York, London, Paris and Hong Kong.

So far, Dubai is making progress on the business events front. This year ICCA ranked Dubai among the top 100 cities for international association meetings. It stood in 63rd position for having hosted 37 ICCA-qualified meetings in 2013, and is the only UAE emirate to be on the top 100 chart.

A prominent event hosted in Dubai this year is the Project Management Institute Global Congress, held from May 5 to 7. As the world’s largest not-for-profit membership association for the project management profession, the annual meeting attracted more than 1,200 decision-makers from around the world.

In April, Nu Skin China led a 16,500-pax incentive to Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Ahmed Alkhaja, senior vice president-venues, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), said: “We are seeing some major wins across tactical industry segments, which further reinforces Dubai’s knowledge economy proposition and creates a rich sharing platform for ideas and discussion that will positively impact decisive regional market sectors.”

In the coming years, Dubai will play host to two heavyweight events – 2018 ICCA Congress and the World Expo in 2020.

Ajay Bhojwani, managing director of MCI Middle East, said: “Showcasing events and having testimonials of success (will) strengthen the Dubai brand and build confidence in anyone looking at holding meetings here.”

Need to Know

Marriott plants massive property in Dubai city centre

Opened in 2013 in Dubai’s Business Bay, the towering JW Marriott Marquis Hotel features 1,608 rooms and suites including four two-storey penthouse suites, 14 dining destinations, a spa, a health and fitness club.

Regarded as a business events hub, the hotel boasts a stable of two ballrooms, 32 meeting rooms, four boardrooms and a selection of outdoor event spaces. The largest venue on site is the Dubai Ballroom which can accommodate events with up to 1,548 guests.

Visit www.jwmarriottmarquisdubai.com for more information.

Experience Dubai after sunset on a traditional dhow

White Sands Tours & Travel conducts a dinner dhow cruise along Dubai’s Deira Creek. Guests can catch sights of the destination’s illuminated city ckyline as well as old trading dhows and luxury yachts that bob over water as they dig into a sumptuous buffet dinner of continental and oriental dishes. Call (9714) 2826-800 or visit www.whitesandstours.com for more information on this programme.

Underwater adventures

The Lost Chambers Aquarium at Atlantis The Palm offers visitors an interactive and educational trek through underwater mazes and tunnels, where they will feast their eyes on 65,000 marine animals, such as sharks, eels, seahorses and piranhas, swimming freely by.

There are over 20 marine life exhibits in the aquarium including a touch tank and an interactive Aquatheatre show.

Special arrangements can be made for coporate incentive groups. A ‘chamber’ can be chartered for private gatherings, with canapés and drinks being served while marine biologists share amazing facts about the aquarium’s inhabitants.

Email lostchambers@atlantisthepalm. com for more information.

Meet and stay at the Al Murooj Rotana

Located in downtown Dubai, close to the Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa, the Al Murooj Rotana caters well for residential meetings and business travellers with its inventory of 247 rooms and suites, 140 apartments, a grand ballroom for 700 guests in a theatre setting, eight meeting rooms, and 11 dining outlets, among other facilities.

To wind down, business warriors can retreat to the hotel’s fitness centre and temperature-controlled swimming pool.

Al Murooj Rotana also offers 27 semi-furnished offices that can be chartered for short- and long-term use by event organisers.

Email almurooj.hotel@rotana.com for more details.

Take a joyride in the skies

The Jazirah Aviation Club in Ras Al Khaimah, an hour’s drive from Dubai, offers incentive delegates early morning joyrides in the skies, an experience that promises breathtaking views of the sea and sand. Each flight on a microlight aircraft lasts between 30 and 60 minutes and is led by a trained pilot or flying instructor. Charges from 300 dirhams (US$82) for a 20-minutes joyride. Visit www.jac-uae.net for more information.

Dusit Thani Dubai refreshes its suites

Dusit Thani Dubai has completed the renovation of its one- and two-bedroom suites, which now feature traditional Thai-inspired handcrafted timber furniture, “floating” walls embellished with gold leaf mouldings and intricate hand carved artwork, along with modern lighting and entertainment systems.

All 147 suites have also been replanned to allow better use of existing space.

The five-star hotel’s last renovation effort in 2013 involved its deluxe rooms and executive suites.

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