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Dubai Events: 11 Tips and Take-aways

By Anne Thornley-Brown
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Dubai, a destination of contrasts, has earned a reputation for opulent hotels and spectacular events that garner a buzz around the globe. Here are 5 take-aways from Dubai events and 7 tips for planning events in Dubai. Event planners can use them to enhance their own meetings, conferences, and corporate events.

Nestled between the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman, Dubai emerged from the sleepy fishing village on the Dubai Creek and the Bedouin communities that roamed the desert. It’s 1 of the 7 emirates forming the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The discovery of oil in 1966 changed Dubai forever.

Most of Dubai's dramatic transformation has taken place during the past 15 years. Today, Dubai is one of the world's foremost luxury tourism destinations, known for memorable attractions and blockbuster events that deliver the "wow" factor.

Dubai Events: 11 Tips and Take-aways

Dubai at a Glance

Dubai is a destination of contrast where visitors can lie on the beach, enjoy adventures in the desert and dine at the top of the world’s tallest building all in one day. Warm Arabian hospitality, traditional Middle Eastern architecture juxta positioned with gleaming, modern skyscrapers, lavish luxury hotels, gourmet cuisine, world class shopping, and truly unique experiences all contribute to Dubai's appeal. Event planners will appreciate the fact that it is a safe destination with an infrastructure that supports conferences, meetings, and corporate events.

Annual trade shows to inspire event and hospitality industry professionals include the Arabian Travel Market in April and The Hotel Show in September. IBTM Arabia takes place in nearby Abu Dhabi in February. In 2020, Dubai will host the World’s Fair.

Here is a quick drone tour of Dubai:

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5 Event Planner Take-aways from Dubai Events and Attractions

These 5 hallmarks of Dubai events and attractions are guaranteed to also leave a lasting impression on your own event guests and meeting participants.

1. Pyrotechnics
The opening ceremonies for Atlantis the Palm back in 2008 were the first of a series of events that put Dubai on the map for stunning pyrotechnics. The mesmerizing display spread across 5 km of the Palm Jumeriah and earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

In 2010 the fireworks and dancing fountain for the inauguration of Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, were equally spectacular. Dubai’s New Year’s Eve fireworks always receive international acclaim.

Take-aways: Even short fireworks displays dazzle participants. Use them to create your own awe-inspiring event moments.

2. Cultural Highlights
Dubai has preserved a number of heritage sites including Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House with traditional Middle Eastern architecture, furniture, and art. Dating back to 1896, it was the residence of the grandfather of Dubai’s present ruler from 1912 until his death 1958.

Dubai Heritage and Diving Village, constructed in 1992, showcases the traditional Bedouin lifestyle and Dubai’s pearl diving tradition.

Take-aways: Use heritage venues for galas and dinners. Enrich conferences and corporate events with local dance, music, theatre, and art. Here are more ideas for harnessing cultural experiences.

3. Hot Technology
In Dubai, developers merge traditional Arabian architecture with cutting edge technology. The iconic Jumeirah Burj Al Arab, unveiled in December, 1999, is a prime example.

2.DUBAI-LANDMARKS---Burj-Al-Arab

In 2008, Atlantis the Palm’s inauguration ceremonies featured 3D projection mapping (see earlier video under pyrotechnics).

In a 1,200-seat desert amphitheater, Dubai’s longest running show, Jumana: Secret of the Desert, integrated Cirque style and traditional dancers, actors, music, horses, camels, 3D projection mapping, lasers, and pyrotechnics. In 2015, Dubai Mall delighted shoppers with 7D augmented reality.

Dubai regularly hosts events showcasing ground-breaking technology. For example, Drones for Good was a drone competition with a grand prize of US$1 million.

The 36th annual GITEX Technology Week, one of the world’s largest technology and gadgets expos, will take place in October, 2016.

Take-aways: Enhance events with 3D projection mapping, augmented reality, virtual reality, drones, and GoPro.

4. Retail Therapy
Even before its run-away growth, Dubai had a reputation as a shopper’s paradise. From gold and spice souks to ultra-modern malls with haute couture and treasures from around the world, Dubai is a go-to shopping destination.

In January and February, 4.5 million visitors converged on Dubai for the 21st annual Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). Launched in 1996 when it attracted 1.6 million visitors, this 32-day extravaganza is the world’s longest running shopping festival. DSF features 6,000 participating retailers, pop-up shops, and 150 activities and events including fashion shows, concerts, and fireworks.

Take-aways: Event participants love to shop. Instead of perceiving shopping as a distraction, why not build retail therapy into events? Through behind the scenes tours of top retail establishments, participants can pick up ideas for décor, marketing, customer service, and logistics. Urban safaris that include mystery shopping with retailers, interviews with top brands, and searching the malls for emerging technology can help executives stay “ahead of the curve”.

EVENTS-ENTERTAINMENT---Dubai-Shopping-Festival

5. Sporting Events
Dubai has a tradition of unique athletic experiences like camel racing, falconry and equestrian events including the Dubai World Cup, the world's richest horse racing event, the Dubai Polo Gold Cup series in the desert, and the Dubai Beach Polo Cup.

Take-aways: While sporting events attract millions of viewers around the world, they are absent from most conferences and corporate events. It’s a missed opportunity to engage participants. Look for opportunities to include short sporting challenges in team building retreats and surprise guests with an outing to a popular sporting event instead of just another dinner.

3.EVENTS-ENTERTAINMENT----Dubai-World-Cup

6 Quick Tips for Event Planning in Dubai

Here are 6 important things to keep in mind when planning conferences, meetings and events in Dubai:

1. Allow ample time for planning.

Dubai is popular with British, German, and Russian companies and for stopovers en route to Asia. Low airfare categories sell out quickly. Months before preferred dates, it is not unusual to find that some flights and hotels sold out.

2. Choose dates wisely.

Keep guests comfortable by visiting between mid-October and mid-April as summers are extremely hot.

3. Avoid popular dates for the best deals.

Dubai uses dynamic rather than seasonal pricing. Airline and hotel pricing will always be higher during Ramadan, local statutory holidays, and statutory holidays in the UK, Germany and Russia. Airfares will also be higher during Chinese New Year as Dubai is an important hub for travel to Asia.

4. Make decisions about team building and off-site activities before selecting resorts and hotels.

Consider hotels near the Dubai Creek if a dhow dinner cruise is on the itinerary. Select a desert resort like Al Maha or Meydan Bab al Shams to avoid a long commute before and after desert safaris.

4.SPORTS-AND-ADVENTURE---Dune-bashing

5. Incorporate the local culture and history.

Include experiences that explore the historical districts and allow guests to learn about the traditional culture. To take a group to a destination that is rich in tradition and provide no opportunity to explore it is a missed opportunity.

6. Carve out enough time in your agenda.

We recommend allocating at least ½ a day for off-site recreational activities and at least 1 1/2 day for facilitated team building that includes outdoor team challenges. Why travel to a truly unique destination that offers desert safaris, activities on the beach, and mountaineering, if the group never sees it? If your group lands in the morning on the first day and departs in the evening on your last day, this will carve out enough time for exploration without blowing the budget.

7. Remind participants to respect local norms and values.

Avoid noisy activities during prayer times. Dress modestly. While public displays of affection are common in the West, they are not in keeping with the values of the United Arab Emirates. Consume alcohol only in licensed facilities like restaurants, resorts and hotels.

In Conclusion

Keep your eye on Dubai for fresh event ideas and the hottest new event technology. Use pyrotechnics, cultural events, shopping experiences, and sports to add excitement to your own events. When you’re ready to head to Dubai, begin your planning well in advance and build enough time into your agenda to explore this unforgettable destination.

Photo Credits: Dubai Tourism

about the author

Anne Thornley-Brown

Anne Thornley-Brown is the President of Executive Oasis International, a Toronto based management consulting firm specializing in team building and executive retreats.

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