Coco Chanel once said: “Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.” She couldn’t have been more right.
Just as in the fashion world, cities become trendsetters themselves, boasting world-class architecture with state-of-the-art facilities. Take the case of Dubai, whose firsts include the world’s tallest building, the Burj al-Arab Dubai currently 512.1m which, when complete next year, will have the first-ever Armani Hotel & Residences: suites, a business centre, four pools and spas, an observation platform on level 124 and 13,935sqm of fitness facilities. As if that isn’t enough, there’s the mammoth artificial island project, The Palm, as well.
When it comes to choosing a destination for meetings and incentive events, there are several reasons why the Emirates is an obvious choice: its location at the crossroads of Europe, Asia and Africa; convenient air access; a fast-expanding hotel room inventory; and high infrastructural standards – the latter of which its sister cities in the Gulf have yet to achieve.
“Abu Dhabi, for example, has been following in the footsteps of Dubai with continuous expansions in the tourism sector, while Qatar is trying to catch up by hosting events such as the Asian Games,” says Aditi Daga, public relations manager of the two soon-to-open Dubai Festival City properties by InterContinental Hotels Group.
“The big difference between Dubai and its neighbouring countries is that Dubai is ahead in the game. In terms of hotel occupancy, Dubai has been a top performer in the region. Its occupancy is among the highest in the world, with a reported 86 percent in 2006, compared to New York’s 82.7 percent and Singapore’s 80 percent.” With the November launch of InterContinental Dubai Festival City, Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City and InterContinental Residence Suites, Dubai’s room inventory will increase by 1,029, in addition to an array of various-sized meeting facilities (see Hotel Highlights, page 33).
Another hot property in the citystate is Raffles Dubai, which opens in October in Wafi City, offering 248 staterooms and suites. It features a pyramid-shape structure with creative principles of earth, wind, fire and water from the ancient Egyptian philosophy. To accommodate events and conferences, facilities are designed to marry creativity and functionality. “An unique venue is the one-hectare Raffles Sky Garden comprising gardens themed Earth, Wind, Water and Fire. These four gardens converge on a large glass dome in the centre of a garden called the Eye of Horus. According to Egyptian legend, Horus was the god of the sky and the Eye of Horus was often associated with health and vitality,” says Vivian Koh, public relations and communications manager at Raffles Hotels & Resorts.
“The Fire Garden features flowers in various shades of red; the Wind Garden houses bamboo, weeping willows and other ferns that bend in the breeze; the Earth Garden has low growing shrubs; and the Water Garden is where one can relax by a water hyacinth pond. Seventy percent of the plants in the garden were sourced from Asia and I think this will be a talking point among our guests.
“For more conventional meeting spaces, the hotel has a ballroom that takes 550 for banquets and 1,000 for cocktails, and [has] 11 function rooms with capacity ranging from 30 to 180 people.”
Impressive infrastructure aside, interesting and unusual activities also add to the attractiveness of the package. They can range from city and culture excursions to outdoor adventures, according to Chiara Sarzi Amade of Emirates, whose businesses include destination management company Arabian Adventures.
“Participant requirements vary from group to group. Some want to combine the traditional/cultural aspects with fun, some want the excitement of a cosmopolitan city while others are more interested in the desert and the beach,” she explains. “Incentives nowadays are more than
just travelling to yet another exotic destination. Participants are increasingly interested in discovering the country they visit and learning about its people, culture, and customs.
“Companies are always looking for new ideas to motivate their staff, and their decisions hinge on the novelty of the destination and/or programme. Arabian Adventures, for example, built a fort in the desert for a client. Called Lisaili Fort, it can host up to 4,500 people in a gala evening.”
In a city like Dubai, which thrives on the architecture it creates – whether in number or size of the structures, thanks to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the Emirates’ ruler and a man of vision – corporate event planners see only more surprises and innovations in the future.
Amade concludes: “Dubai is the only city in the world where one can ski on water, sand and snow, all in one day. This is a city that builds the future. Its outlook and confidence on the future can be, and indeed have been, used by companies to emphasise to their staff the message that ‘nothing is impossible’.”
Dubai International Airport (www.dubaiairport.com) caters to flights arriving from Europe, Asia and Africa. Travel time is seven hours from London and eight hours from Hong Kong.
A subtropical climate much of the year in the UAE. Between November and March, temperatures can range from 14 to 31 degree Celsius. The hottest months are June, July, August and September with temperatures rising to around 48 C.
English is widely spoken in this Arabic country.
Winter months at the year-end require a sweater or jacket especially in the evenings. Although the dress code is “generally relaxed”, modest attire is recommended since this is an Islamic country. However, the good news is, you can wear a swimsuit, bikini or trunks at the pool or on the beach. Sun protection – like hats, umbrellas, sunglasses and waterproof sunscreen – is strongly advised during the summer.
Citizens of Western Europe and the Pacific Rim are granted a 60-day stay in the UAE. Israeli citizens are not allowed in the country. Check with your nearest UAE embassy or consulate for updates.
Visit www.dubaitourism.ae for more information.
Contact: Rebecca Smith, project manager (MICE)
Royal Arabian Tours
Contact: Annemarie de Waal, business development manager
Sahary Gate Tourism
Contact: Leila Arbouz, managing partner
THE FAIRMONT DUBAI
Looking out from a suite at The Fairmont, you feel you are on top of the world. Located on the 34th floor, the 288sqm Presidential Suite boasts panoramic views of the Burj al-Arab Dubai (the world’s tallest building to be completed next year), the city overlooking Sheikh Zayed Road, and Abu Dhabi. What’s more, there is not one, but six penthouse suites, two Presidential Suites, a 325sqm Royal Suite and three duplex Imperial Suites measuring 548sqm each.
BY THE NUMBERS
INTERCONTINENTAL DUBAI FESTIVAL CITY/CROWNE PLAZA DUBAI FESTIVAL CITY
Meeting planners are always looking out for new venues and there is no lack of them in the Emirates. InterContinental Dubai Festival City and Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City will open their doors in November, adding a 3,800sqm event centre (featuring two pillar-less ballrooms, each divisible into three, eight break-out meeting rooms and a pre-function area overlooking the Dubai Creek), a pool garden for 250 guests, a 3km waterfront promenade for 500, the Oasis Garden for 250, a Presidential Suite for 75, the Suite 2727 for 50 and the Club InterContinental with 230sqm of function space for 100.
Just as chic as it sounds, Esca is Qamardeen’s only restaurant and can accommodate over 100 people with views of the pool and garden. It features a contemporary design with apricot walls, rosewood coloured tables and cushioned chairs in cream and burnt orange.
JUMEIRAH BEACH HOTEL
Why stay onshore when you can party at sea? Jumeirah Beach Hotel offers a yacht for charter (operated by ART Marine), complete with meeting space and menu options. The crew will even take you on a tour of the Burj al-Arab, The Palm and The World in the Arabian Gulf.
KEMPINSKI HOTEL MALL OF THE EMIRATES
Head thee to the newest spa in town – the Softouch Spa at Kempinski Hotel – and have a dedicated team of staff attend to your every whim. In addition to the Ligne St Barth Spa and K Wellness Spa, the hotel’s third spa features seven treatment rooms and spa offerings combining the Ayurveda ancient healing powers with Swedish, Chinese, Thai, Japanese, Balinese and hot stone techniques, among others. “We now can address the needs of local clientele who are seeking a recognised, five-star Ayurvedic wellness centre in Dubai,” says General Manager Michael Henssler. “We also have the advantage of being conveniently located next door to Mall of the Emirates and Ski Dubai, which means shoppers and skiers can easily escape to Softouch for some expert pampering.”
Morning: Ahlan wa sahlan! Welcomed at Dubai International Airport by uniformed, multilingual Arabian Adventures representatives. Immigration and custom formalities are processed at desks organised specially for the group. Transfer to the hotel via a six to 14-passenger limousine or deluxe air-conditioned coach.
Afternoon: Lunch is at leisure, followed by a city coach tour featuring the Jumeirah Mosque and the Bastakia wind-tower houses. Participants have the opportunity to take an abra (water-taxi) ride and visit the gold, textile and spice souks.
Evening: Cruise along the creek in a dhow, where guests can experience the “old” and “modern” Dubai and enjoy an international buffet dinner before returning to the hotel.
Morning: After breakfast at leisure, excitement awaits. The group departs from the hotel in 4WD vehicles for a half-day desert adventure. Dune surfing is available for the more adventurous. Alternatively, a cultural tour with activities like how to wear a dishdash is also available.
Afternoon: Enjoy lunch at Hatta Fort, followed by a champagne toast at sunset. A light display can be arranged on request.
Evening: Guests are treated to a “1001 Arabian Nights” event at the exclusive Bedouin Camp, where they are served dates and coffee on arrival. The campsite is set up with live Arabic music, palm readers, camel rides, henna artists, calligraphers and belly dancers for entertainment. A barbecue dinner is prepared on open fires.
Morning: Golf and shopping tours after breakfast are optional, as are activities at Ski Dubai, a 22,500sqm indoor ski resort. For a glimpse of the local lifestyle, you can choose to visit a home where the hostess will introduce you to Arab lifestyle and customs.
Afternoon: Take a cruise around The Palm and The World and be amazed by the residential developments, with commentary provided. Brunch or lunch can be organised onboard.
Evening: For dinner and more views, Al Dawaar offers an international buffet dinner from the 25th floor of Hyatt Regency overlooking the city, the creek and the Arabian Gulf.
Morning: Breakfast at leisure before heading to the airport.