Dubai, the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates and one of the seven emirates that make up the country, has become a popular destination for business meetings and events. One reason is accessibility to global markets: one-third of the world's population lives within a four-hour flight and two-third within an eight-hour flight. Other factors that draw planners to the city include the city's high level of safety; its significant infrastructure investment and development; and the fact that it's home to an array of world-renown hotels, venues, and a wide range of suppliers.
The city's growth as a business and tourism destination can be credited to the evolution of Dubai's hotel sector: there are now almost 109,000 rooms across the city. Plus, the diversity of the hospitality offering means visitors and planners can choose from a wide range of options, from international luxury brands such as St. Regis, JW Marriott, Four Seasons, and Ritz-Carlton, to home-grown operators including Jumeirah and Rove Hotels.
What's new in Dubai for groups?
Dubai is home to a wide variety of leisure attractions to suit all group sizes and preferences. The city has plenty to offer, from a spread of world-class, action-packed theme parks, to impeccable beaches and resorts, while its malls are fitted with indoor ski slopes, large-sized aquariums, and more.
Recent additions include Dubai Frame, the world's largest architectural picture frame complete with a 490-foot high observation deck, as well as the Dubai Safari Park, where visitors can see the world's diverse wildlife at a single venue.
Dubai is also world-renowned for its expansive shopping destinations. The Dubai Mall, next to the Burj Khalifa, is the largest shopping mall in the world, with a total of 1,200 shops including leading international retail brands.
Ain Dubai (Dubai Eye), which is set to open later this year, will become the world's largest Ferris wheel, standing at 210 meters tall. This extraordinary height will provide visitors with stunning cityscape and seascape views, making it an essential tourist site. Ain Dubai is situated on Bluewaters Island, the city's upcoming destination island, which will also be home to the UAE's edition of Madame Tussauds in addition to a host of world-class entertainment, retail, residential, and hospitality offerings.
Other new offerings introduced in recent years include the city's theme parks, which are ideal for group visits and activities. IMG Worlds of Adventure is the region's largest indoor theme park, while Dubai Parks and Resorts -- featuring Legoland Dubai, Legoland Waterpark, Bollywood Parks Dubai, and Motiongate Dubai -- is the region's largest integrated theme park resort.
What's a venue or activity that's a "hidden gem" for visiting groups?
Dubai is a treasure trove of hidden gems. One that stands out amongst many others is Alserkal Avenue, which is a cluster of architect-designed warehouses in Dubai's industrial quarter. Home to galleries, creative businesses, unique shops, cafes, and public spaces that offer a variety of events and activities, Alserkal is a local favorite that can be enjoyed by groups of varied sizes.
And while Dubai's rapid growth and emergence on the global stage may have come in the past few years, the city and area actually has a rich history. Groups and visitors can explore this at the Saruq Al Hadid Archaeology Museum, which features artifacts unearthed from the recently discovered archaeological site of the same name, with rich immersive and interactive displays bringing to life the fascinating story of the Iron Age in the Middle East.
What's a good outing for a group looking to get a sense of Dubai's culture or history?
With Dubai's rich history and culture, there are a number of ways to fully experience it in the Emirate. The Al Fahidi Historical District, an old town neighborhood along the Dubai Creek, features many traditional nuances that bring these experiences to life. Among them is the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, a non-profit organization dedicated to increase awareness and understanding of Dubai's rich culture, which is done through heritage site tours, mosque visits, cultural programs, and other traditional experiences, such as a sit-down meal with an Emirati host. Within the Al Fahidi Historical District, visitors can also explore the traditional old Souks, an authentic shopping experience where markets of spice, gold, jewelry, fabrics, and other goods can be purchased from local vendors. Visitors can then catch an Abra ride, the city's most traditional mode of transport, and experience the historic routes of getting around Dubai's Creek and waterways.
Where should a group go to get a truly local culinary experience?
In Dubai, visitors are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to authentic Emirati dining experiences. While in Dubai, be sure to savor traditional Emirati foods from Al Fanar, Seven Sands, Siraj, and Logma, among many others. These restaurants are a sure way to transport visitors back in time with traditional Emirati and Arab dishes; some of them also serve modern renditions of old-time favorites.
At the same time, a hallmark of the local culinary experience is its diversity. As a melting pot of over 200 nationalities, Dubai has cuisines from around the globe, meaning there are options for every taste, and visitors and groups can do a food tour of the world in one city. These options also range from fine dining and concepts by Michelin-starred chefs, to street food and food trucks. High profile international names on the culinary scene include Gordon Ramsay, who has Bread Street Kitchen at Atlantis The Palm, and David Myers, who is behind three concepts at the new Renaissance Downtown Hotel.
Is there anything else that you think makes Dubai a great destination for groups?
As host to several top professional events throughout the year, Dubai has also gained a reputation as an ideal destination for golfing. There are two top clubs that are available for individual and group golf outings. The 36-hole Emirates Golf Club with a natural rolling desert terrain and a clubhouse in the shape of traditional tents, makes for a memorable golfing experience in the region. At the 18-hole championship Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, groups can enjoy lessons at the academy before hitting the greens, or enjoy a private event at the clubhouse, designed to look like a traditional Arabian sailing vessel.
Groups can also enjoy the all-new Etihad Museum, which allows visitors to explore the history of the United Arab Emirates and become familiar with the nation's cultural heritage. A modern and dynamic museum, it provides a unique perspective on the events that culminated in the nation's unification and founding in 1971.
Dubai also offers world-class international entertainment for groups, such as the La Perle, a theatrical spectacle that is suitably ambitious to claim the title of Dubai's first resident show. More than 60 artists perform stunts and aerial acrobatics on an aqua-stage of almost 3 million liters of water. The show was created and produced by one of the world's most revered cultural artistic directors, Franco Dragone, and is housed in a dedicated 1,300-seat theatre.
Similarly, the Dubai Opera is a definitive destination for groups looking to enjoy performing arts in the city. It passionately embraces its role as the creative heart of the city, producing and hosting the finest, most authentic, and engaging performing arts experiences from Dubai and the world.