WELCOME TO DUBAI
If you are looking to attract delegates who are serious about business for your next meeting, conference or exhibition, then this jewel on the Persian Gulf should be top of your hit-list.
According to a report by Euromonitor International, Dubai is regarded as the most sought-after destination for business travellers or meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) due to its modern infrastructure and premium lodging landscape.
As we will learn, Dubai's modern and adaptable conferencing facilities, world-class hotels and incentives are a serious pull for organisers, but as Steen Jakobsen, director Dubai Business Events and City Operations at Dubai Tourism, explains, there are many reasons why the region is so well-suited to MICE.
“One of the main success factors behind Dubai’s popularity as a business events destination is its ease of access for global markets, with one-third of the world’s population living within a four-hour flight, and two-thirds within eight hours," he says.
"This includes key markets from Europe and Asia. In addition, state-of-the art transport systems facilitating travel to and around the city – including an integrated tram and metro network – makes Dubai a convenient choice to host business events.”
"Dubai also has a strong knowledge base and strategies for innovation across key sectors, including renewable energy, transport, education, health, technology, water and space. Planners can tap into this to enhance their events, ensure delegates get the most out of their business event experience and to ensure long-lasting legacies are created.”
Dubai boasts a wealth of conferencing facilities designed for all kinds and sizes of events.
At the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre – part of the city's Dubai World Trade Centre – there are more than 122,000 square metres of covered event space, providing conference facilities for up to 15,000 people.
Facilities include two sets of four halls; the Al Multaqua Ballroom, which can be used for conferences, drinks receptions or seated dining and the Sheikh Rashid Hall, a column-free space which invites everything from plenary sessions and concerts through to sporting events and theatrical productions.
As well as providing three grand hotels, the beachside Madinat Jumeirah Resort offers an array of conference and banqueting facilities.
The Madinat Arena is a 'black box' multipurpose venue that can accommodate up to 2,600 delegates theatre-style or 4,500 guests for a cocktail reception,n while the Madinat Conference Hall boasts two ballrooms for up to 1,900 people for a cocktail reception and 1,540 theatre-style.
Where to stay
Dubai already boasts an impressive 689 hotels and hotel apartments for delegates to stay in, including the world-famous luxury hotel Burj Al Arab. However, the region is not stopping there, with another 164 hotels currently in the vision, planning, construction and pre-opening stages according to a report by Tophotel Projects.
Of those already in existence, Dubai Tourism's Jakobsen suggests that the JW Marriott Marquis Dubai with 1,608 bedrooms or the 1,539-bedroom Atlantis, The Palm are well-suited to delegates.
Those looking to save travel time between conference and hotel should look at The Apartments, Novotel World Trade Centre Dubai, Ibis World Trade Centre Dubai or Ibis One Central, which are all situated less than a one-minute walk from the Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
The stylish W Dubai – Al Habtoor City with 356 bedrooms and a welcome desk on the 30th floor is an impressive, modern option; while you'll find more classic luxury at The St. Regis Dubai. Both hotels have extensive meetings facilities and will be sharing details of these and more at this year's Meetings Show.
Eating and drinking
At the end of a successful day of meetings, delegates will no doubt be seeking sustenance. As Dubai Tourism's Jakobsen notes, fortunately finding refreshments post-conference – whatever your tastes, budget or requirements – is easy in Dubai.
“As a melting pot of over 200 nationalities, Dubai has food from around the world and boasts a truly diverse culinary scene, with over 5,000 restaurants," he says.
"From concepts created by Michelin-starred chefs and fine dining, to food trucks and street food, there are options for all tastes, budgets and requirements."
Jakobsen recommends wandering to the waterfront where new development La Mer hosts 48 different food and drink outlets – from burger joints like Five Guys and Big Smoke Burger to Iraqi fine-dining at Aghatti.
If you wish to dive into Dubai's culture as well as a bowl of food, check out Al Seef, a 1.8km area near the Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood, combining shopping, dining and accommodation. Tucked away on the banks of Dubai's much-loved creek it offers restaurants and cafes along the promenade.
Or if you want to try authentic Emirati food, head to Al Fanar which conveys an ambience of Dubai in the 1960s when the city was just a small town on the shore of the Arabian Gulf, or Aseelah at Deira Creek where you can try classic Arabian dish samak (fish in gravy with spiced rice).
Dubai offers a wealth of opportunities when it comes to corporate incentives with its warm climate making outdoor activities an easy option (although note that the summer months when it reaches around 40 degrees Celsius will be too hot for many to spend much time outside).
If activity-led incentives are the preference, try dune bashing – a 4x4 roller coaster ride through the desert in a Land Cruiser, adding in some sand boarding where you can literally surf the sand dunes – to the trip if you're feeling adventurous.
For something a little less energetic, but equally as fun, head out to the Al Marmoom Camel Race Track for a modern-day take on the traditional Emirati sport of camel racing.
If you prefer to remain in the city, consider a visit to the Burj Khalifa, which at over 2,700ft is officially the tallest building in the world.
Whatever your requirements, there is plenty of help on hand to arrange incentive trips, says Dubai Tourism's Jakobsen.
“As the city’s official convention bureau, Dubai Business Events offers a host of free services to enable planners, associations and companies to create successful and truly memorable events," he explains.
"This includes assistance with bidding, venue search, site inspections, accommodation booking and social activities. We also work closely with partners and stakeholders across the city, including hotels, venues and airlines, to ensure planners are able to take advantage to specially created packages and offers.”
Looking to the future
While Dubai may already be one of the world's leading MICE markets, it refuses to stand still, with new developments planned and a drive to host the world's best events in the near future, including those for the meetings industry.
“Dubai will this year host the 57th ICCA Congress, meaning meetings professionals from around the world will be gathering to discuss key issues and the industry’s future," says Jakobsen.
"Looking further ahead, Expo 2020 Dubai is on the horizon, an event which will provide opportunities both during six months of the event itself, and through the permanent venues left as part of its legacy.”
Did you know?
1. Dubai is home to the world's largest tower. The Burj Khalifa measures 828 metres and 160-storeys high.
2. Gold can be purchased from a vending machine in Dubai Mall. The Gold to Go ATM allows you to buy anything from a 2.5-gram, 24-karat gold coin to a one-ounce gold bar.
3. The line of the Tropic of Cancer crosses through the UAE, meaning Dubai's weather is warm and sunny all year round. In the height of summer the average temperature can reach 45 degrees Celsius.
How to get there:
Dubai International Airport (DXB) connects to more than 240 destinations through over 80 airlines. Last year it handled 88.2m passengers, making it the busiest airport in the world for international traffic.
When there, the city is easily accessible by public transport, offering both a metro system and an extensive bus network.
Reasonably priced taxis, Uber and local ride-sharing service Careem are also available in the region.