By Scott Deisley, Vice President Aquaventure Operations, at Kerzner International’s Atlantis, Palm Jumierah, Dubai, UAE
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While part of this radio silence certainly has to do with the rigors of opening an iconic resort like Atlantis, part of it I have to chalk up to laziness and uncertainty. I started a few times to put posts together but to be honest, I wasn’t inspired. As many people have speculated, it was a bit of a dark time in Dubai in 2009. I say that, but I do believe it was a dark time most everywhere in 2009. The world was moving along at a pretty good pace and all the sudden, the bottom fell out. It has been a terrible year for everyone and I am glad to see it disappearing in the rear view mirror. It was a bit disappointing to hear people from the industry, people I respected, speak with so much apparent pleasure about the problems Dubai has experienced . No one here was celebrating the bad fortune that had befallen the rest of the world. Like everywhere else, good people lost their jobs and struggled to make ends meet in what was certainly a terrible time for everyone. Have I been nervous that, regardless of my performance, I could have lost my job at some point over the past year and a half? Of course I have. I would venture a guess that most of you reading this have felt the same way at one point or another. On a brighter note, things seem to be getting a little bit better and people are feeling more confident. I feel that now, like most other times in my life, my job security is more a matter of how well I perform rather than how bad business levels are. I again feel like I am in control of my destiny and that is an empowering feeling.
Well, to be honest, while it was a tough time, and it still is to some degree, it wasn’t the end of the road for Dubai. I have to say I am impressed with how they have spent the past 18 months. Instead of closing up shop, they paused or cancelled most mega projects and focused on something really important, the little things. Mind you there have been a few large scale things as well but they have finished some projects that would usually have taken a back seat to the big boys. There has been a renewed focus on things like sidewalks, road projects and landscaping. They have completed a large part of the ambitious metro project which has been ongoing for a few years now. Work continues on it at the moment and an announcement has been made that work is drawing to a conclusion on many of the stations on the next line to open. Essentially, we saw things slow down but not stop. It was actually nice to see some of these projects, often overlooked in favor of the next big thing start to tie the big projects together and give some measure of completeness to certain areas.
After this period of calm in Dubai the signs of confidence are beginning to show again. Cautious, but who’s not cautious these days? Dubai has had to come to grips with a new world, one that is vastly different from what it was used to. There was a time here when sales was order processing. No sales skills were required. Now, it’s time to go out and compete for the business. Room rates have come down. They’re still among the highest average rates in the world but they have come down to where people that have always wanted to vacation here now can, exposing a whole new market. This is not all bad. I will tell you that if you have ever wanted to visit Dubai but have felt that the time wasn’t right or it would cost too much, right now is the time to come. It is hot, make no mistake about that, but the deals are amazing. Reference kids go free with Emirates Airlines on their website. I would even guess that deals will go on through the end of the year, but start planning now. I would highly recommend Atlantis, The Palm as the place to stay.
I have heard great things about it .
There have been many demonstrations of confidence among developers as well. Several hotels on The Palm are nearing completion and the Dubai Pearl, (above right) which sits at the base of The Palm is moving fast and furious, rising a at a consistent pace. Our own One&Only resorts have announced the opening of a new resort on the crescent of The Palm for 10/10/10. It has risen with lightning speed and if the One&Only Royal Mirage, our other One &Only resort in Dubai, is any indication, it will be a beautiful and brilliantly run property. Dubai Airport has completed a new terminal to service Emirates Airlines flights only. The expansion is larger than many whole international airports are at full build out. Two large new malls, Dubai Mall near the financial center and Mirdiff City Center Mall near the airport have also opened in the past 18 months.
Let’s not forget about the world’s tallest man made structure, Burj Khalifa (left), named in honour of the ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE. Let’s be fair here and acknowledge the magnitude of this achievement. This is a really spectacular building and surrounded by a well thought out development.
Dubai is not a giant city by world standards but there is a giant ambition and an amazing sense of excitement, even now. I am very happy to be living here. I still think this is an amazing place and I think it’s an amazing time to live here.