The emirate is often perceived, first and foremost as a leisure-based, beach destination, certainly by Russian and Asian tourists. The objective of this ‘mega fam’ was to promote Dubai as a business destination and showcase the city’s broad business events offer.
And the trip did pretty much exactly what it said on the tin; but what it also did was highlight the hard work that has been put in, now matching the determination and desire that has always been there, in order to position Dubai as a premier meetings destination.
Talking to many of the city’s key stakeholders in business and travel and seeing first-hand how the ambitious 2020 tourism vision strategy is in full swing, it was clear that when Dubai dreams, it dreams big.
Arriving a day before the programme officially began meant a day to explore my hotel, although it was just one of many luxury hotels. Located right next to the Dubai Mall, it would have been rude not to have spent my free afternoon indulging in some tax-free shopping!
With the jet-lag negotiated, the official programme commenced and the next three days featured tours of Dubai’s attractions, hotels and venues. Highlights included a site visit at The Atlantis Palm and its Presidential Suite; a trip to the top of the tallest building in the world, the Burj Khalifa; and a helicopter tour of the city. It may have only been three days, but the programme was packed as tight as Aladdin’s cave with ideas and offers to appeal to the business traveller and event organiser.
What struck me most about being in Dubai was the incredible amount of building work that was still ongoing. There was a time when the cranes had briefly stopped swinging at the height of the global recession.
Now the city’s picture perfect backdrop, with its blue sky and high rise buildings, includes a new army of cranes on the move. Wherever you looked there were buildings in various stages of development….Dubai is certainly not a city that likes to stand still and the development is again powering the drive forward for this emergent business destination.
Many of the group had visited Dubai previously and, whether it was seven, five or even two years ago, all said that the city had changed dramatically since their last visit, and in some cases, was unrecognisable.
Just as us newbies were discovering the city for the first time, some of those who were returning said they also felt as if they were also discovering Dubai for the first time.
More than one city stakeholder underlined the importance of improving and building on what was already on offer to make it even better.
With Expo 2020 on the horizon and the Tourism 2020 plan in full swing, the next five years should see no let up in the pace.
As His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, told us: “Dubai is forever forward looking – and always changing.”
I hope to make it back to Dubai in the future when, no doubt I will be able to discover it all over again.