With the last of the GFC behind it, Dubai is on an upward trajectory that is set to make it one of the most visited cities in the world.
Business events is big business in Dubai, the emirate that appears as if nothing will stand in its way to achieve leading-world status in the tourism sector within the next decade.
On a recent tour there as part of the inaugural Dubai Business Events Mega Fam Trip (with plans to run three per annum), I not only saw the metropolis sprawling before my very eyes, but heard the palpable enthusiasm of so many who now call this place home.
The excitement appears almost contagious and can be seen and heard as you disembark your aircraft, and continues as the many technological facets of your hotel room are demonstrated for you.
Even on the tour bus, in-between the non-stop dialogue of this mall which will be the largest in the world when completed, and this building which will be the largest residential tower in the world when completed, or that ski slope, the only one of its kind anywhere in the world, are philosophical musings that cut to the heart of this city.
A relatively pertinent one that I couldn’t get out of my head was from our tour leader, from Sri Lanka if I remember, who said that the phrase `nothing is impossible’ has a different meaning in Dubai, where Arabic is read and spoken.
Because Arabic is read from right to left (opposite to reading English from left to right), the phrase in Arabic is written: `Impossible is nothing’.
And it appears that in Dubai, the seemingly impossible really is nothing. Somebody simply has to dream up what may be considered an impossible idea – like the construction of an island in the shape of a palm tree, complete with houses and roads and hotels and life, or the construction of a series of islands with each island in the shape of a country, or construction of a hotel where a large portion of it is actually underwater – and somebody will make it happen.
The Palm, The World, and Atlantis The Palm, Dubai are very real today, and just three examples demonstrating that impossible is in fact nothing when it comes to this emirate.
It would be a brave man or woman to argue therefore that when Dubai says it plans to double visitor numbers to 20 million by 2020 – making it the most visited city in the world – that it won’t do so. Right now it is the fifth most visited city.
Explained the director general of the Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, Helal Almari, at a press conference during the mega famil where the city played host to 100 meeting and incentive travel planners and international media representatives, part of that strategy is also to double its business delegate numbers to four million per annum.
To achieve these targets Dubai is focusing on increasing its hotel stock, particularly in the three and four-star brackets (presently the city has 89,000 hotel rooms), grow its convention centre stock, and further develop access to Dubai from throughout the world.
CEO of Dubai Airports, Paul Griffiths, also speaking to media, said in keeping with the expected tourism growth, expansion of the airport is underway. It currently has the capacity to host more than 60 million passengers per annum and will be able to accommodate 100 million passengers by 2020, making it the largest and busiest in the world.
Emirates’ own airline is doing its bit as well. Executive vice president and chief commercial officer of Emirates Airline, Thierry Antinori, said the airline currently had 300 aircraft on order. Emirates has gone from a start-up in 1985 when it had two aircraft and three ports to one which now travels to 143 destinations on six continents, has a 60,000-strong workforce, and at last count 231 aircraft.
Dubai Business Events Mega Fam key host and Dubai Business Events director, Steen Jakobsen, is typical of seemingly everyone living and working in Dubai in 2014.
“Through my work I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to most parts of the world and visit more than 100 cities,” he said at the welcome breakfast.
“For the past year I’ve been privileged enough to live and work in Dubai. During that time it’s become clear to me that this is the most remarkable city in the world. Business is booming, we have year round sunshine, our facilities are second to none, our service levels are incredible, and the food is amazing. As you can hear, I have fallen in love with Dubai.”
Business event activity is strong and appears to be getting stronger each year. Earlier in 2014, Dubai welcomed 14,500 delegates from Nu Skin in China, which arrived in seven waves, and injected around $80 million into the economy; In 2015 the emirate will welcome its largest South American incentive, with expected delegate numbers of 2000 delegates; and at the end of the decade Dubai will host Expo 2020 Dubai where visitor numbers are expected to exceed 25 million.
If you’d like more information about business events in Dubai contact the Sydney office of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism & Commerce Marketing on (02) 9956 6620.
By Brad Foster