The emirate may be witnessing a small blip with restricted shutdown for the moment, but its hospitality top openings and its hot list of global events has put it firmly on Travelgram’s radar as the destination to explore this year.
After an extremely enthusiastic re-opening in November 2020 with the hosting of Dubai Marathon and opening its borders to international travellers, Dubai has hit some sort of a roadblock with a spike in coronavirus cases after the New Year celebrations.
For the moment, bars and pubs are shut for the entire February and crowd restrictions have been imposed in most parts. Yet, Dubai’s authorities are quite sure that by March they will be raring to go. Already, three new luxury hotels have opened up from November 2020 to now, a couple of more are on the anvil, and Dubai’s manic whirr of proposed global events through 2021 have put the Emirate right on top of every traveller’s must-visit destination.
The UAE’s hospitality industry has experienced a strong rebound after 2020 summer-long restrictions introduced to curb the spread of coronavirus. The industry believes that the current restrictions are just a blip in the never-ending story of Dubai tourism. The return of international tourists to Dubai and the increase in staycations as UAE residents remain in the country has helped drive the recovery. Omar Souab, General Manager of the new luxury hotel Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk, says, “The hospitality industry has considerably developed and adapted after the outbreak of Covid-19. It has aimed at creating a more controlled and safe environment for the guests, a regular sanitization and protective practices are now in place. The industry has been extremely intuitive of customer needs and has prioritized guests and colleague safety. Even though travel is restricted primarily to local markets, the hospitality industry has taken its time to learn and innovate, like digitizing most touch-point areas and mostly using QR codes for menus.”
Travelgram puts together a list of new hotels and restaurants and 4 reasons why we think you should head out to Dubai once it reopens for tourism.
Four new hotels to add to Dubai’s klatch of hotels
Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk
The modern masterpiece is within WAFI, the mall complex envisioned by H.H. Sheikh Mana bin Khalifa Al Maktoum, and complements the iconic Raffles Dubai pyramid. The golden pyramidion (capstone) on the 230-meter property shines brightly over the neighbourhood skyline, much like the Luxor Obelisk does in the centre of Paris
The 230-meter tall obelisk-shaped building houses 595 luxury guest rooms, suites and serviced residences, all offering spectacular views of Dubai, old and new. Guests walk in through the magniﬁcent doors of a grand Pylon — the colossal gateway of an Egyptian temple taking them on a magical journey of ancient Egyptian mythology. From statues of Horus on either side of the fountain and Anubis guarding the impressive golden gate to the artistic ceramic ﬂooring showcasing the Nile River, there are stories to be uncovered behind every corner.
Its striking architecture finds resonance in the interiors crafted by Dubai-based design firm, WA International Dubai Interior Design Studio. “Renowned for creating exquisite interiors for the hospitality market for over 20 years, the designers have harmoniously combined Middle Eastern luxury with French sophistication. Abreast of the latest technology and trends in interior design, WA International curated opulence, innovative and unique interiors to complement the hotel’s exterior,” says General Manager Omar Souab.
Among the dining experiences:
- Gastronome Françoise at Brasserie Boulud, a new concept by Michelin star chef, Daniel Boulud, his ﬁrst in the Middle East. On the menu: traditional escargots with garlic and parsley butter served with free-range chicken oyster; citrus-cured Hamachi (yellow-tail amberjack) with Nicoise seasoning; Cocotte-baked sea bream with saffron, fennel and tomato; and classic desserts such as Floating Island, Vacherin, Rhubarb and Raspberry charlotte.
- The flavours of Far East at Taiko, a Dubai outpost of Amsterdam’s popular restaurant by Chef Schilo van Coevorden. This is the famous brand’s first international outpost. The restaurant will serve unique specialities such as Wagyu biryani and the famous watermelon sashimi, besides signature cocktails that draw inspiration from a speakeasy in downtown Roppongi in Tokyo.
- Rewind at The Nine, a British neighbourhood gastropub characterised by its Egyptian inﬂuence. The menu lists comfort fare such as the signature Fish & Chips, The Nine burger and posh bangers and mash. The wine menu features organic and biodynamic options. There is a gin trolley that’s taken around to guests, who can craft their favourite cocktail.
Souab, who headed the opening, says, “While it was scheduled to open in April 2020, as the pandemic set in early last year, the hotel strategically rescheduled the opening date after summer. This period provided us with an opportunity to enhance our services and focus on a thorough learning and development plan. We have secured extremely effective and strong partnerships with Michelin-star chef-owner Daniel Boulud, as well as a partnership with Founder and Executive Chef Schilo van Coevorden, who has returned to Dubai to introduce a unique and award-winning contemporary Asian concept from Amsterdam.”
He is confident that despite the unprecedented times, the economy will rev up. “Opening in late 2020 provided us with an opportunity to welcome the local community and get ready for when the economy improves and travel is back as we overcome the pandemic.”
Right now, Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk is targeting the local community — the UAE residents and GCC clientele. “We are also targeting long-stay guests with our beautiful residences.” He expects the international tourism market to increase gradually in the next 12-18 months as travel restrictions are eased and flight paths are opened. “With a well-regulated and strict practice of conducting PCR tests for the travellers, the Dubai government is already welcoming international travellers and is preparing for global events like Expo 2020 set to take place in October 2021.”
Avani Palm View Dubai Hotel & Suites
Avani’s third hotel in Dubai is a soaring, 48-storey property located at an unbeatable location overlooking the iconic Palm Jumeirah. It is positioned between the vibrant communities of Dubai Media City, The Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina, and houses three dining destinations and dual-level infinity outdoor pool with spectacular views of the neighbourhood.
Avani Palm View’s 264 rooms embody 21st-century stylish living, kitted out as they are with floor-to-ceiling windows, fully-equipped kitchens, interactive living spaces and private terraces. “Avani Palm is an ode to everything modern in hoteliering: the spaces are designed for social distancing, there is an emphasis on lowering the carbon footprint and source the food locally,” says Dillip Rajakarier, CEO, Minority Hotels.
This legacy hospitality project by the late architect Zaha Hadid was one of the most anticipated openings from Melia hotels first opened its doors in March 2020, before closing down during the COVID-induced lockdown. It is now open for business again.
ME Dubai’s futuristic architecture is characterised by curves, sharp angles and bold materials that epitomised the studio’s unique design style. The hotel is a haven for epicureans with restaurants such as DESEO, a Latin affair, Central Cosmo Tapas & Bar, MAINE Land and Brasserie, that offers New-England style dining, and ROKA, an award-winning Japanese restaurant, serving contemporary Japanese Robatayaki cuisine and sushi in striking surroundings. All rooms are split into two themes: Midnight and Desert. While the former reflects the dynamic night skies of the Dubai skyline, the latter pays homage to the serene environment and soft hues of the UAE landscape.
Gabriel Escarrer, Vice Chairman and CEO, at Meliá Hotels International, says, “Dubai is a fascinating, exciting city, known for its progressive feats of design; all of which are characteristics that resonate with ME by Meliá hotels and the high standards we offer our guests. The two towers are linked by a four-storey atrium at ground level and also connected by an asymmetric 38-metre-wide, three-storey bridge that is positioned 71 metres above the ground. They are an architectural marvel.”
The Next Big Opening: The Palm Jumeirah St Regis
When the 52-storey tower opens in March, it will feature 289 guest rooms and suites and 432 luxury residences. It will house houses the striking AURA Skypool as part of a three-floor luxe dining and entertainment destination atop Palm Tower. One floor above on level 51 is the SUSHISAMBA restaurant, serving up a mix of Japanese, Brazilian and Peruvian cuisine; while the 52nd floor will play host to the Palm Tower’s much-awaited viewing deck, aptly called The View.
4 experiences that will rev up tourism in Dubai in 2021
Art Dubai: 17 to 20 March 2021
The 14th edition of Art Dubai, the region’s most important art fair, brings together diverse art communities from around the world. It presents the largest selection of galleries from across the MENASA region and champions the finest of artistic output. The fair’s agenda will span art and social interactions hosted across the beach, the Creek, and other outdoor settings, while the fair layout and access timings will be adapted with necessary health and safety rules in place.
Art aficionados who cannot visit during Art Dubai can experience two hotspots of culture anytime during the year, with visits to Alserkal Avenue, which houses over 60 art, design, retail, dining and creative spaces, and Jameel Arts Center, an independent arts institution along the Creek, which is dedicated to exhibiting contemporary art from and about the region.
Expo 2020: 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022
This is the big-ticket event that most hoteliers are depending on. Expo 2020 will stretch over six months and has a theme ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ that reflects the history of Dubai, historically called Al Wasl, or ‘the connection’. Dubai has long played an important role in connecting east and west, north and south. It was meant to be hosted between October 2020 and April 2021 but was postponed due to the global health crisis.
Expo 2020 Dubai will feature the best in entertainment, technology, cuisine and culture from across the globe. The first World Expo held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region and the largest event ever to be staged in the Arab world, the event will welcome more than 190 participating nations and millions of visitors.
Museum of the Future
It is set to become one of the most iconic cultural landmarks in the world once it opens, Museum of the Future explores the future of science, technology and innovation, and is designed by Shaun Killa, a Cape Town-based architect who runs an eponymous award-winning design atelier.
The complex building, in the shape of a torus, represents the earth and the sky, while the space in the middle reflects the unknown quality of the universe. The 30,000sqm, seven-storey column-less marvel stands at 77m high, with 1,024 Arabic calligraphy panels on the façade. The Museum is being talked about as “a home of tolerance”, and will embody varied cultural, philosophical, social, and spiritual schools of thoughts. An incubator of ideas, it will bring together inventors, designers and researchers.
Located on Bluewaters Island, Ain Dubai, when it opens, will be a giant Ferris Wheel, standing at a staggering height of 210m, the highest of its kind in the world. It will offer 360-degree views of the Dubai skyline including Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa. If one were to put down numbers that define this fascinating contraption, this is how it will read:
- 5 tonnes: The weight of each permanent spoke cable that holds the wheel rim in place.
- 1 football pitch: length of each permanent spoke is longer than a professional pitch.
- 2,400: Distance in kilometres of all the cable wires housed inside the spoke cables if they were joined end to end. That’s the same distance as Dubai to Cairo.
- 15: London buses can fit inside each leg.
- 250+ metres: The height of Ain Dubai, making it the world’s tallest observation wheel.
- 25% more steel used in to construct Ain Dubai than iron was used on The Eiffel Tower.
- 9,000 tonnes of steel used in the construction of Ain Dubai.
Dubai has its game together for a memorable 2021 by pitching itself among the top destinations to travel to once the world safely opens.