Scott Deisley

Scott, currently Vice President Aquaventure Operations, at Kerzner International’s Atlantis, Palm Jumierah, Dubai, UAE is a dynamic senior manager with extensive experience in international resort, corporate chain, and family run water parks. Prior to this he spent 6 years managing New Jersey’s Mountain Creek Waterpark where he supervised a staff of 475 and before this worked at Schlitterbahn Waterpark and NGBS International.

“Giant Ambition & Excitement” : Dubai in 2010.

By Scott Deisley, Vice President Aquaventure Operations, at Kerzner International’s Atlantis, Palm Jumierah, Dubai, UAE

Related: Life in Dubai : Cranes, Waterparks and Atlantis…   /  As Visualizations Gradually Become Bricks and Mortar, What Will Spell Genuine Success in Dubai?  /  Head-Over-Heels Race to the Future Causes Growing Pains  / Big DEAL in Dubai   / Dubai: Themed Design and Architecture Straight from the Catwalk

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.   

Life in Dubai : Cranes, Waterparks and Atlantis…

Along with the Hotel and the Waterpark, Atlantis Resort boasts Dolphin Bay (bottom right), an interactive dolphin experience as well as the Lost Chambers (right), a deeply themed marine habitat experience.

I began my career in 1987 in Wildwood, NJ as a lifeguard, moved to Texas where I worked at two waterparks before moving to Dubai in 1999 to open Wild Wadi.  I spent a few years back in the states in both Texas and New Jersey before moving back to Dubai almost seven months ago. 

I am planning to give a little bit of insight on personal and industry life in Dubai.  If the shy inquisitiveness of my friends and family back in the States is any indicator I believe you will find it interesting and a bit exciting.  It might even lead you to visit if you haven’t already, or dare I say it, join the boomtown that is Dubai.

I live and work on Palm Jumierah which is very convenient and provides a wonderful lifestyle.  I walk out the back door of the lobby of my apartment building and I am on a beautiful beach with crystal clear, and depending on the time of year, pleasantly cool seawater.  When I look out my living room window I can see the Burj Al Arab off in the distance, some of the frond villas and a few hotels under construction out on the crescent.  It really is a remarkable place as well as being a remarkable time to be living here. 

Dubai is a small town by world standards.  Thought to be populated by less than two million people it is just a bit larger than San Antonio, Texas.  It is one of seven Emirates that make up the country, which only came into existence on 2 December 1971.  The Ruler of Dubai is His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum who is also the Vice President of the UAE.  While you may think immediately of oil as their major breadwinner you would be mistaken.  Oil revenues account for less than 6% of Dubai’s economy. 

Currently it is believed that some 25% of the world’s cranes are at work in Dubai engaged in the widespread and quite impressive construction boom that’s going on over here.  I could go on and on about just how crazy the pace of development is over here but suffice to say that from my balcony I can see no less than 19 tower cranes at work at any time.  The list of industry projects either built, under construction, or on the drawing board is staggering.  If full build out is achieved it will have more attraction capacity than Orlando, FL.  At the moment the world’s tallest man made structure is in Dubai with Burj Dubai and the only building in the plans to exceed that is planned, go ahead, guess where……yes, Dubai.  It really is hard to get ones arms around until you’ve been here and even then the scope is staggering.  It’s not even the fact that things are changing but the pace at which they change.  When you haven’t been to an area of town for a week and you return there, the whole landscape can have changed dramatically.  A new road may be open, a new building may be started or even finished before you even knew it was under construction. 

In 2000 I decided to leave Dubai to return to Texas.  I can honestly say that Texas is one of my favorite places in the world, but I knew almost immediately that I had made a big mistake.  I have been anxious to return and have patiently courted the job I am now in for five of the seven years I was home.  I couldn’t get back fast enough and I am very happy to have found my way back.  You can rest assured that I will not be leaving any time soon.  Very little crime, censored internet, clean, great levels of service, warm year round (sometimes hot but as my friend Rob Klok says “you have to take the rough with the smooth”), cheap gasoline/petrol, central location many destinations in Europe/Asia/Africa.  I am also very happy that my children, Tyler and Dylan are able to grow up in an environment where they realize the world doesn’t drop off sharply at the edge of town and that people of all nationalities are not much different than they are.  

I think one of the most important things about Dubai to me professionally is that it is focused on doing the industry and doing it at a very high standard.  It reminds me of when I first got involved in the industry and it was dominated by entrepreneurial individuals like the Henrys, the Moreys and the Watermans that truly love/loved their family businesses.  They were unwilling to cut essential bits of their operation to turn a quick profit.  They had their eye on the horizon and made their decisions based on the future health of their business and the industry.  It feels good to be back in that kind of environment again.

I look forward to giving you all a little look into the industry and life here in Dubai. 

Cheers,  Scott Deisley

See also

Dubai: Themed Design and Architecture Straight from the Catwalk

Letter from Dubai: Head-Over-Heels Race to the Future Causes Growing Pains