Extraordinary images of Dubai’s skyline have been seen around the world, but this is a city that must be experienced to be believed. Where else can you spend the morning on the beach, the afternoon snow skiing and the evening camel riding in the desert? Where else can you dive with sharks in a shopping mall and watch dancing fountains at the base of the world’s tallest tower? Whatever your passion, whatever your age – Dubai will never disappoint. And with many more hotels and attractions in the pipeline, no-one can ever truly say they’ve ticked off Dubai. With changes constantly afoot, Dubai is a city that can be visited year after year, after year.
The pace of progress has been phenomenal and it takes some believing to imagine that just 50 years ago Dubai was little more than a fishing village beside the Dubai Creek – a must-visit that is currently being assessed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
It is this very spot that the Bani Yas tribe and the forefathers of the Maktoum dynasty settled back in 1800. Even in the 1950’s when the rest of the world was exploring space and New York’s Times Square had been illuminated for a good 50 years, Dubai still sat in darkness without electricity. But it was also here that the Vision was set. The seeds of ambition were sowed and that small fishing village blossomed into the modern, multicultural and dynamic metropolis we see today.
Dubai dares to dream big – and then turns that dream into reality.
Having welcomed 10 million visitors during the course of the year for the first time in 2012, the emirate’s Tourism Vision was declared in May 2013: to welcome 20 million visitors a year by 2020 and to treble tourism’s contribution to the economy.
One year later, having won the bid to host the World Expo in 2020 during which His Highness Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai promises to “astonish the world”, Dubai is building on that declaration by pursuing its ambition to become The World’s Most Visited City – but not just a city to be seen but a city ‘to be experienced’.
For example, shopping in Dubai is not just about making purchases – it is more about amazing leisure and cultural opportunities, such as bartering for silk in a historic souk; meeting a colony of King and Gentoo Penguins in a shopping mall, and picking up hand-crafted trinkets from a market.
Dining in Dubai is not just about eating – it is more about sampling the cuisine from the 200 nationalities that live here. As a culinary capital not only regionally but increasingly globally, Dubai has long caught the attention of Michelin-stared chefs and is home to some of the best tastes in the world – whether that be in its five-star hotels or its pavement cafes.
For the sportsman and adventure seeker, Dubai is about sand boarding down a 300ft sand dune, camping in the desert, deep-sea fishing, skydiving above Palm Jumeirah and playing camel polo. And for the night owl, Dubai is about enjoying some of the hottest, trendiest and most creative nightspots imaginable.
For culture vultures, Dubai is a city that’s rich in heritage and increasingly it’s making its mark on the world stages for art, film, literature, comedy, theatre and music. For all these genres the city hosts dedicated festivals and events and this all adds up to create a calendar that is literally bursting at the seams, whether it be joining the crowds at the Dubai Media City Amphitheatre to see A-list chart toppers perform such as John Legend or Sting, or watching Federer or Djokovic battle it out for the title at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships.
Throughout the year, city-wide festivals add to the fun, from the legendary Dubai Shopping Festival which celebrated its 20th year in January 2015 to the hugely successful Dubai Food Festival, now an annual month-long event since its launch in 2014.
And for families, Dubai vows to be the world’s premier family destination, continually building on its portfolio of attractions and events. Few cities offer as many attractions that appeal to all ages as Dubai does. It’s here that families can dash from the ski dome to the desert; from the beach to the parks (whether that be theme parks, water parks or sprawling green parks); and from the multi-screen cinemas where butlers serve popcorn to Olympic-sized ice-skating rinks.
It’s upon these propositions (Family, Events, Art, Heritage, Gastronomy and Nightlife, Shopping, Beach and Marine Life, Outdoor Adventure) coupled with Dubai’s winning formula as a global Business hub and its winning Hotel and Spas sector, that the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing is confidently able to base its tourism ambitions.
And with hotel guest numbers growing year-on-year by 5.6% per cent in 2014, equating to a total of more than 11.6 million hotel guests over the course of the year, the pace has been set. To host all these guests, the total number of hotel establishments has increased by 7.8% to equal 659 properties or 93,030 rooms and flats – spanning all categories from standard to five-star and from city, to beach resort and desert. The portfolio is impressive with hotel companies such as the local Jumeirah Group and Emaar Hospitality setting the global standards for luxury and service. It’s a service mentality to which all hotels adhere, whether five or two-star, a serviced apartment or a guest house.
Where else in the world can you have a 24-carat-gold facial in an award-winning spa, swim with dolphins, watch a world-class act on the beach at midnight, dine on Michelin-starred cuisine and feed sharks all without leaving your hotel resort? The answer is a resounding ‘only in Dubai’.
Dubai is a city where the impossible is possible. Where you cannot help but be impressed, awe-struck and mesmerised. It’s where holiday dreams come true and where remarkable memories are made for a lifetime.