Incentive planners guide to… Dubai

The Dubai skyline at night

Dubai is, without doubt, a main player as an incentive destination. The ‘millionaire’s playground’ delivers everything you could hope for: year-round sunshine; glitz and glamour; culture and world-class cuisine; luxury and style; captivating deserts and exciting water parks. It looks like the billions in investment poured into the city has paid off, creating a world-class infrastructure. Its airport is now the world’s busiest international airport (statistics showed Dubai hosted 18million passengers between December 2013 and February 2014, compared to 14.9million at Heathrow, 6 October 2014).

Dubai’s past and present

Dubai is one of seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Although rich in history and tradition, Dubai is also a relatively recently emerged cosmopolitan metropolis, whose steady growth now sees it as the most densely populated city and emirate in UAE, with a population of approximately 2.1 million. Covering an area of around 4,000 km², it is the second largest emirate, beaten only by the capital, Abu Dhabi, which has an area of over 60,000 km².

In 2013, the city won the bid to host the World Expo 2020, an event that will last for 6 months and see visitors arrive from all around the world. This will be the first time that the World Expo is staged in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA).

What makes Dubai a good incentive destination?

Dubai sightseeing

  • For a start, there are a great number of unique experiences and sights to see in Dubai, not to mention the world-class cuisine and fine dining.
  • The choice of luxury, five star hotels in the city is huge…and growing! It is home to (at last count!) 61,150 hotel rooms, with a potential 70% increase on that number in time for the Expo 2020.
  • Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa, and you can take your delegates almost to the top of its 828 metres…if you like!
  • It was the first city in the world to offer a seven star hotel – The Burj Al Arab hotel in Dubai was opened in 1998 with a butler for every room.
  • In 2012, Dubai was the 22nd most expensive city in the world and the no. 1 most expensive city in the Middle East. This year, Dubai’s hotel rooms were rated as the second most expensive in the world, after Geneva. That is how quickly it has developed as a city and as a destination.

If you have chosen, or are planning to choose, Dubai as your next incentive destination, you may like to read our tips on where to stay, where to eat and what to do in Dubai, along with some useful info on local laws and customs.

 

Stay

Atlantis The Palm

The Atlantis was the first completed property on the Jumeirah Palm, the world’s largest man-made island, formed in the shape of a palm tree. You almost don’t need to go anywhere else when you reach this resort – along with the 4.5 star hotel itself, you will also find 23 restaurants, bars and lounges serving over 28 different cuisines, a water park and aquarium, helicopter tours, scuba diving, night club, private beach, and year-round concerts and live entertainment. I think we can forgo writing the rest of the article now!

But seriously, Atlantis The Palm comes highly recommended, and not just by us. 2013/14 has seen it win a number of awards, such as Best Hotel/Resort in the Middle East and 2014 Dubai’s Leading Resort.

Atlantis The Palm, Dubai

Fairmont The Palm

The beachfront Fairmont The Palm is all about the local attractions! Situated on the Palm Jumeirah, the hotel is just a few minutes from Dubai’s main attractions and activities, such as Burj Khalifa, Dubai Museum, desert safaris, gold souks, Wild Wadi Waterpark and Aquaventure. A huge number of shopping malls and centres are nearby, as are several golf clubs and the beach.

How about the facilities? Well, eight restaurants serving everything from sushi to Turkish dining, a wine bar called Cin Cin offering over 250 different wines, a cigar bar and much more, means you’ll never have to spend your down time in the same room! A 40,000sqft spa, rooftop swimming pools and a fully equipped health club add to the luxury of this hotel.

Yet again, the hotel has won a handful of awards, including Elite Traveller, Top 101 Suites of The World, Presidential Suite and TripAdvisor, 2014 Travellers Choice Award.

Fairmont The Palm, Dubai

Royal Mirage Dubai

A beachfront hotel set in 54 acres of flawlessly landscaped gardens, the Royal Mirage Dubai is like stepping onto the set of 2000 movie, Arabian Nights. Both the Arabian architecture in the form of arches, domes, and towers, and the residences themselves called The Palace and Arabian Court, give it that majestic, Oriental feel.

As you would expect from a One&Only hotel, splendour and luxury are in evidence at every turn, with fine dining in eight different restaurants, a traditional Oriental Hammam (or Oriental steam bath) and the One&Only spa.

Golf courses, sand surfing, water sports and all the sights of Dubai can be experienced from this luxurious hotel, which does not let down the One&Only family.

Royal Mirage Dubai

 

Eat

Nasimi Beach Restaurant

Overlooking the immaculate beaches of Palm Jumeirah, Nasimi Beach Restaurant is the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a delicious Mediterranean meal, with a menu serving a range of seafood and grilled delicacies. With prior agreement, you can have exclusive use of this restaurant, perfect for an inventive event.

With that in mind, we recommend having the restaurant to yourselves for lunch to enjoy a beach BBQ in the sun, overlooking the Dubai skyline, while the resident DJ spins a few tunes…perfection! Their day beds are just too tempting!

Nasimi Beach Restaurant, Dubai

Boardwalk restaurant by Dubai Creek

Boardwalk restaurant, part of the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, is situated on the Dubai Creek Marina and offers the perfect position for stunning views across the Creek. This is a beautiful restaurant in itself. It has a cool, modern decor and serves a Mediterranean inspired buffet, along with with an authentic pizza oven, seafood and fish (including the famous ‘Boardwalk Fish & Chips’ for a treat from home!).

However, to go one better, take a ‘doughnut’ along the Creek (the yellow inflatable boat variety, not the edible type!) for a very appetizing BBQ on the beach, all arranged with the restaurant itself. The views of the Dubai skyline on the way are awesome!

Boardwalk restaurant by Dubai Creek

Bespoke Desert Adventure

OK, this isn’t really a suggestion for where to eat; it’s more a whole afternoon and evening of entertainment that happens to include some food! But we can highly recommend it for an authentic Dubai experience.

Start with some dune bashing, where pro drivers ‘ride’ the desert dunes for a thrilling drive. Tyre pressure is reduced by 50% – apparently this ‘provides a bigger footprint for the tyre and dramatically improves traction’. Whatever, it’s a rip-roaring ride! Then try your hand (or is that feet?) at sand-boarding – yes, that’s exactly as it sounds…snowboarding for the dunes!

Finally, settle down for a feast in traditional Bedouin style. You’ll be on low divan seating with carpets, cushions and Berber style open tents, for delicacies such as hummus, tehina, pickles and olives, stuffed vine leaves, a selection of salads, soft drinks, coffee and sweet-smelling herbal tea.

Traditional Dubai music with drums and tambourines provide the music, while Whirling dervishes provide the entertainment with Sufi whirling – a ceremonial dance that tries to reach ‘religious ecstasy’. It’s an evocative and colourful display, offering an essence of Middle Eastern culture in a dynamic performance. It’s also a lot of fun to watch!

As part of our ‘desert adventure’ we also enjoyed a falconry display, sunset Champagne, ‘dress up in dish’ dash, a superb belly dancing demonstration, hubbly bubbly pipes and camel rides.

A captivating event, displaying the culture and traditions (both new and old) of Dubai.

Play

The Lost Chambers Aquarium

The Lost Chambers Aquarium is an interactive, educational and entertaining trek through underwater chambers, where you are surrounded by sea life such as sharks, eels, seahorses, and piranhas. It’s absolutely beautiful and enchanting – a must-see when you come to Dubai.

To make it extra special for your incentive party, you can hire a ‘chamber’ exclusively; enjoy canapés and drinks, while marine biologists divulge some amazing facts about the aquarium’s inhabitants. You can even hold a star fish or a sea cucumber!

Lost Chambers at Atlantis The Palm, Dubai

Aquaventure Waterpark

Well, you can’t really call it a holiday if you haven’t been to a water park and this is a water park and a half! Rides such as The Tower of Neptune, The Tower of Poseidon and river rides are spread over 170,000sqm. The world’s largest slide is at this park, as is the longest zip line circuit in the Middle East. There is also a dual slide – a slide within a slide!

Go on, you know you want to!

Aquaventure Waterpark, Dubai

Yellow Boat sightseeing tour

You have so do some sightseeing while in Dubai. There are just so many to see! The world’s tallest building, the famous man-made palms, the royal palaces and so much more. See all of these on a Yellow Boat tour. And take lots of photos…the Dubai skyline is an amazing sight!

The Dubai skyline during the day

Things to know before you visit Dubai

  • There are currently no required vaccinations for travel to Dubai, but the department of Health recommends being up to date with your immunisations against Hepatitis A, Typhoid and Tetanus. You should use bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth.
  • At the time of publishing this article, the British pound was equivalent to 5.91 Emirati Dirham (AED). Compare that to the cost of a three course meal for two in a mid-range restaurant – 150.00 AED or approximately £25, and you’ll see that Dubai isn’t quite as expensive as you would assume.
  • Citizens from the UK, USA, Australia, New Zealand and most Western European and Far Eastern countries are entitled to a free, 30-day extendable visit visa on arrival.
  • Drugs are absolutely forbidden and associated penalties are very severe.
  • Alcohol is served at licensed restaurants, bars and clubs, but cannot be bought around town. Drink driving is another absolute no-no, with very heavy penalties for offenders. The legal drinking age in Dubai is 21.
  • Although Dubai is generally permissive, you should dress modestly when around town, and long skirts or trousers and short sleeves are a must when venturing further afield, especially during Ramadan.
  • Personal behaviour in public should be restrained – drunkenness and overt displays of affection are offensive to the Muslim culture and illegal.
  • The time zone in Dubai is GMT + 4.
  • Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, is a period of fasting, spiritual growth and prayer for Muslims. This takes place in the ninth month in the Islamic calendar. Ramadan 2015 begins Thursday 18 June and lasts for 30 days. Muslims must abide by stringent rules from dawn until sunset for the entire month.
  • To visit Dubai, you need a full passport with at least 6 months validity remaining after the date of entry.
  • Although the official language is Arabic, English is widely spoken.
  • Dubai is sometimes referred to as the ‘Las Vegas of the Middle East’, so the rule still counts…what goes on in Dubai, stays in Dubai!

Are you considering Dubai as your next incentive destination? Our Events & Incentive Travel team have a wealth of knowledge of the city and surrounding areas, with a combined 22 trips to Dubai under their belts, and would be more than happy to discuss your requirements.

Contact us for an informal chat.

 

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Incentive planners guide to... Dubai
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What makes Dubai a good incentive destination? Everything from the myriad of luxury hotels and sights to see, to the year-round sunshine and world-class cuisine. Read on for our top tips.