In less than a decade, Dubai has risen through the ranks to reveal itself as one of the world’s most favoured meetings and events destinations. With top-of-the-range venue infrastructure, a mix of modest and luxury hotels, connectivity, a focus on growing key sectors and a continually diversifying economy, it’s easy to see why.
Dubai’s rotation of business events is spread across the Emirates’ 700,000 square meters of meetings and exhibition space. And it’s a busy roster.
Dubai Business Events, the city’s official convention bureau, confirmed it had secured 120 meetings in 2021 for that year and beyond, as the region benefitted from fewer lockdown restrictions than competitor destinations. The combination of conferences, meetings, and incentive travel programmes are expected to bring 70,000 thinkers, scientists, government officials and other experts, to Dubai. This is in addition to the 24 million visitors Expo 2020 Dubai attracted from October 2021 to March 2022. The Expo 2020 Dubai, originally scheduled for 2020 hence the name, saw 192 countries exhibit their cultures through art, cuisine, theatrics, and technology at the purpose-built Expo site, under the theme ‘Connecting minds, creating the future’. The Expo defines Dubai’s ambitions to bolster its reputation as a centre for international meetings with continued investment in meetings infrastructure alongside its established venues.
His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, said: “The experience of the past two years has only served to underline the importance of in-person business events and what they can offer to organisers, participants, sponsors, exhibitors, and their wider networks. We therefore continue to explore all opportunities to host business events in Dubai and work with stakeholders in the city to provide meeting planners a safe, impactful platform for knowledge sharing, networking, and creating lasting legacies.”
The Expo Dubai 2020 site, for example, covers 45,000sqm, the equivalent of 600 football pitches or twice the size of Monaco, and has plans to expand to 180,000sqm now the expo is over. With legacy in mind, the site will rebrand as the ‘City of the Future’ ensuring 80 per cent of buildings on-site would continue to be used as accommodation, office space, leisure space and meeting space.
“We designed the site so that daily needs are within 15-minutes of walking,” explains Sanjive Khosla, senior vice president of the transition unit at Expo 2020 Dubai. “The second principle is that everything is highly sustainable, all the buildings we've built are LEED Gold or Platinum certified. All the buildings have solar panels, 22 per cent of energy is created on-site and each of the buildings consumes 20 per cent less electricity and water than usual buildings. We’re also a 5G campus with enough fibre to cater for up to 300,000 people at one time.”
Expo 2020 Dubai recently attained the ‘ISO 20121:2012 Event Sustainability Management Systems’ certification, proving that it has embedded sustainability – one of the event’s three key subthemes – across its entire lifecycle.
Where to meet
Continuous investment and construction are ubiquitous with Dubai, giving planners an unrivalled choice of venues. The long-established Dubai International Convention & Exhibition Centre (DICEC) is ideal for large meetings and exhibitions with more than 120,774sqm flexible space alongside smaller meeting rooms. But Dubai is synonymous with luxury which extends to its meetings and events hotels, offering close to 100,000 rooms, with more being added all the time. Whether you want to meet in the world’s tallest hotel or the world’s most luxurious hotel, Dubai can make it happen.
Jumeirah Al Qasr, part of a complex of five Jumeirah properties set along the beach and surrounded by waterways, offers 294 rooms and suites and access to the largest hotel meeting and conference space in Dubai. Across the complex, planners have access to the Madinat Arena for 4,500 pax, Joharah Ballroom for 1,500 pax, Fort Island for 1,400 pax, Murjaan Ballroom for 280 pax and 50 meetings rooms.
When nothing but the best will do, the world’s first 7-star hotel, Burj Al Arab, provides undisputed luxury and for many, a once in a lift-time experience. For meetings, gala dinners, or incentive stays, Burj Al Arab has 11 exclusive-use options, including the Al Mahara aquarium restaurant for 125 guests. Gilt is another glittering venue in the hotel perfect for a cocktail reception or private lunch for 150 guests.
For something a bit different, why not host a meeting in a pod high in the sky or hire all of them for up to 1,750 delegates at one time, at the world’s largest and tallest observation wheel - Ain Dubai. Providing a bird's eye view of the city's skyline, Ain Dubai offers 19 customisable experiences on the wheel and in the surrounding plaza. The wheel offers spectacular views across Dubai, from the cityscape to the sand dunes in the desert. The pods can be used for meetings, product launches, dining experiences, cocktail parties, and teambuilding events, with a dedicated events team to work with you from planning to execution.
Stepping back in time in the most contemporary way possible, the Etihad Museum is a unique event venue offering delegates a history lesson while they convene. In 1971 the leaders of the seven Emirates gathered at what is now the Etihad Museum, to sign the treaty. The large, multi-purpose hall can accommodate 70-100 delegates for seminars, exhibitions, conferences, and workshops. The versatile classroom can be divided into two for breakout sessions.
The View at The Palm, Nakheel’s 360-degree observation at the top of The Palm Tower, has opened The Next Level, a private viewing space featuring unobstructed, barrierless, panoramic vistas of Palm Jumeirah, the Arabian Gulf and Dubai’s skyline. It is available for exclusive tours and has access to a bar.
In the Business Bay district, the highly anticipated Museum of the Future has finally opened its doors to visitors. The eye-catching oval museum takes visitors on a journey to the future of living, from wellness and space travel to the wonders of nature and the technology of tomorrow. The museum exhibitions fall across five floors, with a hireable auditorium on level three and a dedicated event space on the seventh floor. With a promise to ‘bring together futurists, thinkers, innovators and the public,’ the Museum of the Future setting sure to inspire your delegates.
What to do
While the glitzy city has a lot to offer delegates when the business day is done, the lure of the surrounding desert has a treasure trove of rich flora and fauna to be discovered by day and clear constellations to awe at by night.
Platinum Heritage offers eco-friendly safaris in 1950s Land Rovers, via modern Range Rovers, by camel-back and by hot air balloon. Led by Bedouins, the safaris can include bird of prey shows, dinner by campfire or dinner at the exclusive desert oasis restaurant. Each activity can be incorporated into a business event, whether it is a meeting, product launch, gala dinner, or team-building experiences.
What they say
“An incentive destination needs glitz and glamour, luxury hotels, sunshine, swimming pools, great food, impeccable service, places to drink, dine and dance in spectacular locations. It needs to understand groups, have an abundance of fun activities, be easily accessible and it needs to be somewhere that people fancy going to. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Dubai.
“Dubai understands groups. Flight routes are frequent and excellent value so you can do a day flight and be there in time for dinner or a night flight and be enjoying a sumptuous breakfast in the desert heat before you know it. There are so many luxury hotels so you can always find the right one for your group. From the modernism of the W on the palm to the gilded Burj Al Arab, there is something for everyone. The food is spectacular, the brunches are truly bottomless, and the parties are in full swing until the early hours. You can spend a day in the desert just as easily as you can spend a day at sea, and you can look down from the clouds at the top of the Burj Khalifa. The new Ain Dubai (twice as high as the London Eye) is a brand-new feature on the skyline, and you can book the pods for dinner. That’s the thing about Dubai, it continuously evolves and that makes it an ideal incentive destination. The groups we have taken there, and there have been many, all enjoy what Dubai has to offer. For an incentive programme, it really does take some beating!”
Graham Alderman, managing director, Ulterior Events.