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Resilience pays off for Dubai World

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Hazel Heyer  May 02, 2008

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (eTN) - Dubai World, a holding company that manages and supervises a portfolio of businesses and projects and contributes to Dubai’s rapid economic growth across the globe through several sectors including transport and logistics, urban development, dry docks and maritimes and investment and financial services, is today’s center of attraction because of tourism, hotels and real estate. It’s one success story the emirate has created for itself after 9 to 11 years of trying.

In the ‘80s when Dubai was barely getting into the tourism industry, it was difficult to convince traders to set their sights elsewhere. Nevertheless, the government took big steps to encourage people to invest in hotels. “Jumeirah Beach Hotel was established, the first hotel built to rival any hotel in the world. Traders did not believe the concept of this ultra-luxurious resort will create a market and interest. Burj Al Arab, became a long-tem investment with traders investing money three to seven years in the tourism portfolio. Such was unheard of,” said H.E. Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman of Dubai World. “ Tourism boomed. One of the traders who thought negative about building hotels, now asks them to find him a hotel to buy. There aren't many available today."

Bin Sulayem said he believes that tourism is evolving and that it is the creativity of the people in tourism that makes the industry strong. “Great hotels will continue to be great; those who won’t change will eventually disappear,” he said.

Nakheel, a real estate and tourism property development firm developing iconic projects like the Palm and the World and the Dubai World, is Bin Sulayem’s baby. “In Dubai, we always want to see something new; otherwise, it will be boring if you keep seeing the same thing. Dubai survives on the service industry. We do not have a lot wealth that others have. Therefore we have to work harder than everybody. Our motto: take risks, take chances and be unique – the most important challenge of all is to differentiate ourselves from the rest.”

Nakheel, the developer of more than $30 billion in real estate in Dubai has invested in pioneering US$600 million development spread across a portfolio of eight hotels and resorts. Spanning five kilometers in length and in width, the Palm Jumeirah is one of the world’s largest man-made properties. It will have Kerzner International’s new Atlantis, which will include a 1,000-room resort and an extensive water theme park on 1.5 miles of beachfront. It will be built in the middle of The Palm, Jumeirah, a $1.5 billion land reclamation project. Ultimately, the resort will have at least 2,000 rooms, which promise to dwarf the Atlantis resort on Paradise Island in Nassau, Bahamas.

The formation of Nakheel forms an important step forward for the Nakheel Group. With the Palm, the Nakheel creates an icon for the 21st century.

The secret of success, as bin Sulayem puts it, is not to listen to consultants who tell them what will work and what won’t otherwise they would not have had Emirates Airline or Dubai airport. Or the Port of Jebel Ali Free Zone/ Dubai Ports Authority - another genius of Sultan. “In the ‘80s, we had problems with deepening the port. Vessels going passed us were 700-800 ton container cargo vessels for which we didn’t have a facility. We needed a depth of 70 meters. Our consultants did study the issue saying the ships will not come to Dubai; they will only go to Aden or Salalah at the mouth of the Red Sea, (and the maritime route was North America, Mediterranean, the Red Sea/Suez Canal and The Far East). To go to the port of Dubai, a ship will have made a deviation of five days, or 70-75 hours of journey.” According to him, none of the vessels would have done that to use the port of Dubai, but rather feed Dubai with giant vessels through Yemen. “The old Dubai vessels will be used to tug them to Dubai.”

Since Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid al Maktoum, the vice president and prime minister of the UAE, and the current ruler of Dubai, told Sultan bin Sulayem not to listen to consultants but instead forge ahead with plans, “We dredged the port to 70 meters, widened the port to 300 meters and lengthen to 21 kilometers. Now 90 percent of the vessels come through Dubai. They don’t go to Aden or Salalah anymore,” he said.

Sheikh Mohamed thought about the island concept in 1997. Sulayem said: “An island with circular breakwaters was okay: beach of seven kilometers was easy. Fourteen was still easy. But 70?”

This required beach stretch sparked the idea of the Palm in which there are 70 km of beaches. The idea to increase beachfront gave birth to the trunk as the causeway got stretched or lengthened.

“Yes, we did achieve 70 kms. We also built a project called the Garden as accommodation for people working in Jebel Ali,” suggested the chairman.

The constant challenge in Dubai was to invest in something already in the sea.

In Sulayems’ vocabulary, anything that merits success needs to be unique and unrivalled. Environment should also be taken into consideration. In the process of building, the environment was not compromised at all by his projects, he argued. “From 1997 till 2002, we’ve been studying the bottom of the sea to ensure the Palm will not adversely affect the environments, especially that we know the water we drink is desalinated. We saw the bottom of the sea was a desert! Fishing in Dubai was far out at sea,” Sulayem said.

Uniqueness of the project is of paramount importance to Dubai and his leaders. Sulayem said he’s introduced knowledge to sponsor the Blue Communities. “In a few years we will no longer reclaim as much because we won’t need to,” he said. “We will document our experience for other projects and developers and destinations to follow our lead.”

The most prominent Dubai businessman underscored that for every project to boom in Dubai, it has to be attractive and unique, certainly like the Palm which definitely is something that has the flavor of an island yet very close to the city that boasts the biggest growth in tourism, hotel development and resort real estate in the Middle East and the Gulf, if not, in the world.

Resilience pays off for Dubai World
Image via eikongraphia.com



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