Dubai: City of gold

As the world capital of glitz and glamour, Dubai is constantly reinventing itself. Hollie-Rae Brader checks out what’s new

When it comes to glitz, glamour and general over-the-top-ness, there aren’t many places in the world that can rival Dubai. Year-round sunshine, a plethora of high-end hotels, plus the fact it’s just a seven-hour flight away, mean Dubai ticks a lot of boxes. Not only does it suit those looking for a stopover en route to farther-flung places, but it’s also a super-hot (figuratively and literally) city-break destination in its own right. But this place is constantly changing, and with non-stop innovation and investment, it can be hard to keep on top of what’s new in this epic emirate. Here’s Aspire guide to doing Dubai right 

Why sell it

Dubai isn’t for everyone; your clients will either love it or hate it. It’s the kind of place that entices some year after year, while others will quickly decide it’s not for them and never return. But you can’t knock Dubai until you try it, and most clients will want to visit this glittering emirate once in their lives. So ensuring your knowledge is up to scratch will help get bookings over the line.

As a nation that worships the sun and craves all the vitamin B we can get, Dubai’s promise of endless hours of guaranteed sunshine is often enough to seal the deal.

For those travelling on the Emirates network to destinations such as New Zealand, Australia or Asia, recommending a couple of nights in Dubai to break up the long flight is an easy upsell. 

What’s new

What isn’t new? A bar or restaurant seems to pop up most weeks in Dubai, while the number of hotel openings gathers pace almost every week.

Among my favourite new hangouts is The Penthouse at Five Palm Jumeirah Dubai, where you’ll find most expats hanging out at the weekends. It’s super-trendy, and its Dim Sum Disco Friday brunch session is one of the best in Dubai – but make sure you book way in advance. After you’ve feasted on the epic Chinese food and endless prosecco, head to the property’s private karaoke venue. New rooftop bar Eve, perched on the 24th floor of the Hyatt Regency Dubai Creek Heights, is also worth a visit.

On the foodie front, recent openings include The Galliard, a Turkish, Spanish and French fusion venue in the Address Downtown; Uzbek restaurant Osh (at La Mer); and The Queen’s Grill on ship-turned-hotel QE2 Dubai.

The latest hotel openings in the luxury space include the W Dubai, Dukes Dubai, Viceroy Palm Jumeirah and Bvlgari Resort Dubai. Just last month, a new Kempinski – the 389-room and suite Emerald Palace – opened its doors on the Palm. Next month, a Mandarin Oriental will open, while there are also Raffles and One&Only properties on the horizon. 

In terms of new attractions, the Dubai Frame opened this year. In typical Dubai style, it’s huge and slightly unnecessary, unless you’re looking for a photograph for your social media account. The view from the top is nice enough, but if you’re looking for a view we’d suggest heading to the top of Burj Khalifa instead.

When to go

Dubai is unbearably hot between May and late September, and you’ll find yourself in search of an air-conditioned venue at all times. Instead, head to the emirate between November and April for some winter-sun action.

Where to stay

The Palm is popular among tourists, but many first-timers are unaware of how far it is from key Dubai points, such as Burj Khalifa and the airport. The enormous Atlantis The Palm attracts a lot of attention, but if you’re looking for something smaller and less in your face, head to Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah which, in my opinion, is one of the best properties on the Palm. The two One&Only properties – one on the Palm and the other on Jumeirah Beach – also have a big following. They are connected by a boat shuttle, so guests can enjoy the extensive culinary options across both hotels.

Traffic on the Palm can build, so unless your client is a repeat visitor seeking some TLC without venturing too far from their resort, I’d suggest staying on the mainland. Many fashion brands have launched hotels here, including Palazzo Versace Dubai, Armani and Bvlgari Hotel – all are sophisticated and suitably glitzy.

What to do

Dubai is full of quirky things to see and do: from skiing in one of the largest malls (Mall of the Emirates) or ice skating in another (The Dubai Mall), to pretending to fly on a skydiving simulator or actually reaching great heights at the top of the Burj Khalifa. The world’s tallest building is bound to be on every visitor’s to-do list, but my preference is for admiring it from afar, rather than being at the top of it. So I’d recommend heading to Taj Dubai’s rooftop bar, Treehouse, after dark to see it glittering in all its glory.

Families won’t be short of activities to keep their youngsters occupied while in Dubai. And don’t be put off recommending these to high-end clients – just because they’re affluent doesn’t mean they don’t need suggestions to prevent their children from getting bored on holiday. Plus, there is always an option to upgrade theme park tickets to include added benefits and extras such as queue jumping or private cabanas. 

Options at the new Dubai Parks & Resorts include a Bollywood-themed land, Legoland water park and a Hollywood zone. On my visit, I headed to Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis The Palm. While the hotel itself might not appeal to the super-wealthy, the waterpark is lots of fun and a great way to spend the day.

To find out more about the emirate’s culture, head beyond the skyscrapers, theme parks and chaos. In the souks that flank Dubai Creek, you’ll find traders flogging their wares. The surrounding desert offers a different side to life here altogether, and although many excursions are ultra-touristy, it’s worth doing one to appreciate the juxtaposition of the hectic city and serene dunes.

Where to dine

There are far too many options, with almost every type of cuisine on your doorstep. My favourites include European venue Pierchic, EauZone at One&Only Royal Mirage and Japanese restaurant Zuma.

Pair it with

Dubai is easily paired with its less flashy and arguably more cultural neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi. Just an hour’s drive away, Abu Dhabi is worth visiting for its epic mosque and new Louvre museum alone. For clients wanting to travel farther afield, there are countless options, particularly on Emirates’ extensive network. Pairing Dubai with the Maldives and Seychelles is a popular choice. 

Book it

Gold Medal brand Pure Luxury offers three nights at the Waldorf Astoria Palm Jumeirah for £1,199 per person. The price is based on half-board accommodation in a King Superior Partial Sea View Room. It includes return premium economy flights with British Airways.goldmedal.co.uk

› Waldorf Astoria review, page 126

Upgrades

EMIRATESFirst and BusinessEmirates offers flights to Dubai from eight UK airports, with services from Edinburgh and Stansted having launched in recent months. The airline offers first-class flights from £4,629, while business-class flights lead in at £2,529 from Heathrow.emiratesagents.com

ATTRACTION WORLD

Helicopter Rides

There’s plenty to see and do in Dubai, and Attraction World offers numerous options to see the city in style. The tickets provider sells 10 helicopter tours, ranging in length and price. The shortest journey is a 12-minute Iconic Tour (from £135), while the most extravagant is a 45-minute private Grand Tour, which departs from Atlantis the Palm (from £2,099). attractionworld.com

Hollie-Rae Brader

Hollie is editor of Aspire’s print and online products. She is responsible for the running of the club and ensuring the content produced and the events organised are relevant to the Aspire audience. She was previously deputy news editor and cruise writer for sister title Travel Weekly. She loves exploring new destinations and is gradually ticking new countries off her list. She most enjoys writing about cruise, South America and Japan. Before working in the travel industry she held news reporting roles at the East Anglian Daily Times and Ipswich Star.