Dubai MICE: Exotic Celebrations

5 Jan 2018 by Neha Gupta Kapoor
A beach wedding at Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

It is September 18, 2017. Taxis and cars are jostling for space, trying to drop off their passengers outside Dubai World Trade Centre. Delegates from the UAE and other countries hurry across the heated pavement leading to the entrance of the event space, where they queue up for bag check and registration. Once inside, these attendees make their way to all or either of the six co-located trade shows for Dubai International Hospitality Week (DIHW): GulfHost, owned and organised by Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC); The Hotel Show and The Leisure Show, owned and organised by dmg events; and The Speciality Food Festival (DWTC), SEAFEX Middle East (DWTC) and yummex ME, jointly organised by DWTC and Kölnmesse.

DIHW’s first event was in 2016, and the fact that it received about 50,000 people over a period of three days is proof of Dubai’s hospitality industry being critical for the emirate’s economy. In a press release circulated by Dubai World Trade Centre, Issam Kazim, the CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM) was quoted as saying: “The hospitality sector has long been a key pillar of Dubai’s tourism industry and the emirate’s wider economy. The dramatic growth we’ve seen in the sector over the years is testament to the attractiveness of Dubai as an investment prospect and a destination that prides itself on offering an environment that facilitates and supports business success.”

JW Marriott Marquis Dubai


Dubai is well connected to the rest of the world, and its flag carrier, Emirates alone flies to more than 140 destinations worldwide. For Indians, Dubai is about a four-hour flight away. This is one aspect that helps boost traffic into the emirate; the other, as Rabia Shaheen points out:  “Dubai has a variety of options for varying conference requirements, for different budgets, and all in prime locations.” She is the associate director of sales – MICE at Taj Dubai. Out of the approximately 23 MICE groups the hotel receives annually, Shaheen says nearly half are from India.

Nicola Hands, director for Marquis sales office at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai seconds this opinion by adding that the emirate has  “all the attractions and facilities that is required for a global event or MICE. And by introducing new attractions in Dubai, it helps to pull in a lot of business, especially from the leisure traffic. Whenever we have MICE groups from India, they look for these attractions as an add-on to their travel”.

Ballroom of Pallazzo Versace Dubai


Dubai has been working relentlessly on pulling in a large variety of tourists with new attractions that include leisure activities, as well as interesting event spaces. In 2016-2017 alone, Dubai saw the launch of La Perle by Dragone — a live action stage show with over 450 performances per year, Dubai Crocodile Park, Dubai Frame for aerial views of the emirate, Bollywood Parks Dubai, and the world’s largest Ferris Wheel at 210 metres — Dubai Ain — to name a few.

A spokesperson for Palazzo Versace Dubai says: “Having the Dubai Parks (Bollywood Park, Motion Gate, IMG Worlds of Adventure) have definitely contributed to triggering the interest from all over the world. If we speak about the Indian travellers, having a few Bollywood celebrities in Dubai, showcasing and promoting the destination, too has helped generate business.”

Next on the horizon for new attractions is Dubai Steps that is a structure of giant steps leading up to 100 metres into the sky. The tiers in a cascading layout will have restaurants and event spaces that will provide visitors aerial views of the city. Another project — Deira Islands — is due to complete before the end of 2018. It has four man-made islands that include a 21km long beach, retail space, cafes and restaurants and what is estimated to be the world’s largest night market. The island will be home to hospitality towers for serviced apartments and hotel rooms. Aladdin City, inspired by Disney’s cartoon is also set to open in the coming year as a family attraction.

The emirate will surely garner further attention at a colossal scale when it officially launches its flying taxi service. Currently, the project in partnership with German start-up Volocopter, is in its trial phase. Initial demonstrations were conducted in the fourth quarter of 2017, under the purview of both, Volocopter and Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). Dubai hopes that by 2030, its flying taxi’s operation will form 25 per cent of its passenger transportation. This will be beneficial for the corporate traveller on a time crunch.

The courtyard of The Oberoi Business Bay


Frequent crowd-pulling parks, services and spaces, only assuage doubts if any of an oversupply of hotel rooms, especially those that have recently come up in the wake of the current economic environment and the emirate’s preparation for Expo 2020. A rise in visitor traffic usually snowballs into an increase in the demand for hotel rooms, and with new property openings, each hospitality brand vies to please its guests in the best possible way.

If we were to compare the performance of the Dubai’s tourism industry in 2016 and 2017, there has been an almost one million rise in visitor count. Tourism Statistics and Reporting by Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) states that in 2016, Dubai received 8.40 million visitors, and in 2017, the number reached 9.20 million.

As for room nights consumed across all accommodation categories, in 2016 it was calculated to be 15.85 million, whereas in 2017 it was 16.65 million. Having said that, the average length of stay fell, if only marginally, from 3.7 nights per stay in 2016 to 3.5 nights in 2017.

Dharmendra Sharma, the director of sales and marketing at Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai emphasises on the fact that the emirate is promising for the hospitality industry.  “Dubai is constantly growing and expanding, which continues to bring interest and excitement to the hospitality industry and specifically MICE groups. With EXPO 2020 also on the horizon, there is great opportunity to attract more business to Dubai.”  Currently, Dubai has over 1,00,000 hotel rooms and serviced apartments, making it one of the largest hospitality markets in the world.

DTCM hopes to  “increase the stock of hotel rooms and ensure that a wide range of accommodation type is available”  in order to achieve its ambitious vision of attracting 20 million visitors by 2020. To boost construction, the government has put together an extensive list of benefits awarded to developers and investors of the hospitality industry, based on various clauses — a brief synopsis for incentives to grow the mid-scale hotel segment here, for example, can be found on visitdubai.com/en/department-of-tourism. With such impetuses, BMI Research, a UK-based research firm estimates Dubai’s overall construction industry (not restricted to hospitality alone) to grow more than six per cent annually for the next three years, and then drop by about two to three per cent post 2020 when the demand reduces.

In July 2017, JLL, an American company specialising in real estate, published a report that has grouped cities into five clusters, based on their hospitality industries. Moving down from the most important they are: Global Giants, Rising Giants, Gateways, New World Cities and Emerging Hotspots. Dubai falls under Rising Giants, alongside Bangkok, Beijing, Guangzhou and Shanghai. The report identifies Dubai as an established global hub for tourism and business. “Its supply pipeline continues to be among the largest in the world, representing 50 per cent of an already substantial market.” And this supply will continue to grow at a fast pace in the coming years (albeit slower post 2020 as per industry experts), as has been the trend in this last decade that is constantly keeping up with the rising demand.

Ballrooms of Taj Dubai


Destination weddings are trending amongst Indians, who are coincidentally also Dubai’s top source market. DTCM’s Tourism Statistics and Reporting states that between 2016 and 2017, there has been a 21 per cent rise of incoming traffic from India.

Sharma says,  “With a well-established Indian community, there is great opportunity for both business and weddings here. Wedding planners are able to understand the details and tradition of Indian ceremonies and can be mindful of each important aspect. The property entertains two destination Indian wedding groups a year each with approximately 200 attendees”.

Hands confirms that it helps having a large expat population from India in the emirate. “Dubai has enough Indian temples available for wedding ceremonies. Next, the favourite locations for Indian destination weddings would be luxury destinations, and Dubai is one of them. Further, hotel facilities here are high-end and food and beverage options and quality is trusted.”

Let’s take Palazzo Versace, a luxury property in Dubai as an example. A spokesperson for the property says, “We host two to four destination weddings per year from India, in addition to 15 to 20 local Indian weddings a year. Destination wedding groups usually book from 150 to 215 rooms, whereas local Indian weddings have a guest list from 300 to 500 people.” Understanding this clientele well, the hotel has tailored its packages to cater to requests for vegetarian, Jain and non-vegetarian menus.

Taj Dubai helps organise about 12 Indian weddings on its property per year. The average size of each party ranges between 150 and 200 guests. Included in its package, the hotel throws in one free night in its suite for the bride and groom, which includes breakfast.

The One&Only luxury brand has two properties in Dubai. One&Only The Palm offers free services of a wedding planner, special accommodation rate, packages customised to budget and have no clause for a minimum spend.

These are only examples of what Dubai’s hospitality industry offers its Indian parties. When visiting the emirate, there isn’t a real sense of being away from home. Many establishments have Indian employees, Hindi is widely spoken here and the familiarity with generic Indian preferences is impressive. So while you’re away from India for a change of scenario, being so close to your roots (thanks to the large of Indian expat population) lends a sense of security in getting things done that are in step with imbedded ethnic biases.

Shangri-La Hotel Dubai


Anantara The Palm Dubai Resort

10 meeting and event venues

293 rooms and villas;

Free wifi for up to 2MB


JW Marriott Marquis Dubai

32 meeting and event venues

1,608 rooms and suites, including two penthouses

AED 60/1,068 onwards for wifi


Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates

17 meeting and event venues

393 rooms, suites and ski chalets

Free wifi


One&Only The Palm

5 meeting and event venues

94 rooms, suites and villas

Free wifi


Palazzo Versace Dubai

7 meeting and event venues

215 rooms and suites

Free wifi


Shangri-La Hotel

9 meeting and event venues

302 rooms and suites

Free wifi


Taj Dubai

6 meeting and event venues

296 rooms and suites

Free wifi


The Oberoi Business Bay

17 meeting and event venues

252 rooms and suites

Free wifi


The St Regis Dubai

8 meeting and event venues

234 rooms and suites

AED 45/801 onwards for wifi


Le Méridien Dubai Hotel and

Conference Centre

24 meeting and event venues

530 rooms and suites

Free wifi


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