In the lap of luxury
Why Dubai is increasingly becoming the destination of choice for the rich and famous
Cruising down Sheikh Zayed Road in a Rolls-Royce; lunch on a super yacht on the open seas; and a night at the Dubai Opera. Dubai is the city where dreamers, with a taste for the good life, are never disappointed. While many of us are aware about the lifestyles of the rich and famous, it takes a certain skill as well as a lot of foresight and planning to cater to the needs of the high net worth individuals (HNWIs) that are increasingly calling the UAE their home.
"Dubai is undoubtedly one of the leading destinations in the world for high-value investments by high net worth individuals," Ahmad Al Matrooshi, MD of Emaar Properties, told Khaleej Times.
"This is underlined by the strong demand to the launch of our upscale residential developments in the city that continues to record significant interest from international investors. The recent launch of our new master-planned island destination, Emaar Beachfront, and our residential offering in Dubai Creek Harbour and Dubai Hills Estate are preferred investment destinations for discerning investors from across the world."
He also noted that with Dubai's reputation as a global business and leisure hub, and with its impressive array of attractions such as the Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall, and Dubai Opera, the city offers high net worth individuals a truly luxurious lifestyle. "Add to it the world-class hotels and leisure attractions, and Dubai and the UAE will continue to attract high-value investors, especially with the positive growth and outlook of the economy," he said.
Laurent A. Voivenel, SVP of Operations & Development for the Middle East, Africa & India at Swiss-Belhotel International, explained that the UAE maintained its position as one of the world's top tourism markets in 2017, both in terms of visitor numbers and hospitality performance metrics, and that the trend will continue in 2018. Dubai was among the top 10 destinations for HNWIs in 2017, and was recently ranked as the world's second most popular destination for luxury travel.
New Worth Wealth estimates 5,000 individuals holding assets worth at least $1 million migrated to the UAE last year. The number of migrating millionaires was the third-highest among the markets monitored and there were more ultra-rich individuals moving to the UAE than in other hotspots like the Caribbean, Switzerland, or Singapore.
According to Voivenel, there are multiple reasons why the UAE is gaining in popularity among HNWIs.
"No other single destination in the region is as attractive or diverse in its offering as the UAE," he said. "Dubai has added a number of exciting leisure, family, and cultural attractions such as Dubai Opera, City Walk, IMG Worlds of Adventure, La Perle by Dragone, and Dubai Frame. Abu Dhabi is carving out a position for itself culturally with the Guggenheim and Louvre museums plus the Abu Dhabi Aquarium."
Voivenel also noted that today's concept of luxury isn't what it used to be. "While high standards of product and service, fine finishes, exquisite décor and attention to detail, combined with exclusivity, quality, privacy and serenity are still some of the defining attributes of luxury hotels, there are other trends emerging. Luxury today is not about conspicuous consumption; it's about the personal journey and the same applies to travel in the UAE. There is more emphasis on experience rather than opulence. Small luxury hotels that offer ultra-immersive experiences and family-owned properties with local personality are gaining in popularity."
Voivenel's observations echo Erwin Bamps, CEO of Gulf Craft, who shared his insights on the superyacht industry in the region. The big shift in trends, he said, has been towards owning a superyacht that can accommodate lots of family members and friends. "Many HNWIs want to indulge in activities such as fishing, swimming, and exploring lovely locations in neighbouring destinations such as Oman with their families. Of course, the demands for personalisation on the vessels are there, but there is a greater focus on having enough room on board for activities that the whole family can enjoy."
When it comes to catering to the business elite, Romika Fazeli, CEO and founder of the Emirates World Club - a private members' society for the region's C-suite - said that more than half the world's conglomerates have a base in the UAE.
"The UAE is strategically located between the markets of Europe and Asia, as well as the emerging markets of North Africa and Turkey," she says. "It therefore makes sense that we connect the high-level decision makers of the region through our networking events, as there is a strong desire amongst them to explore partnership opportunities that can widen their corporate reach."
Anand Kumar, executive director at Abra VM & SD International, noted that HWNI's are constantly looking for new experiences, and that this is where the UAE appeals as a destination that offers several such opportunities and continues to build its portfolio of one-of-a-kind experiences across the retail, entertainment, art, dining, and even adventure sectors.
"As retail is a big contributor to luxury and HNWI's needs, Dubai being an expat centric population is able to recruit great talent from across the globe that are bilingual, understand local and expat cultures, and hence able to offer a personalised experience," he said. "Dubai has been quick to pick up and set their own standards from building high end retail like the Dubai Mall to entertainment destinations like the Opera House and iconic hotels like the Burj Al Arab. In addition, the Louvre has been a game changing addition to the region's art scene; and with a Guggenheim in the works, the country puts itself unparalleled for those looking to experience the best of art from around the world."
"Unlike other parts of the world where the leadership is less involved with the details of development in their country, in the UAE you can often see that the royal family is closely involved in building the cities and ensuring the quality of what goes on by regularly visiting new and old developments, thereby maintaining a very high standard in everything that is offered and delivered, and keeping the country in the center of the here and now," he added.
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