Has anybody else noticed the change in the level of business optimism in Dubai over the past few weeks, or is it my imagination? Since the start of the New Year the phone has seemed to ring more and conversations have become much more positive.
People are planning ahead with a greater degree of optimism and projects previously shelved are being resurrected. Don't get me wrong, we are far from out of the woods – but I detect a new mood.
Hotel demand is increasing steadily, particularly in the new commercial areas such as Dubai Investments Park and Dubai Silicon Oasis, not to mention the Outsource Zone and Academic City.
We are hearing almost daily of new businesses relocating to Dubai. Last week we were approached by one company moving here from as far afield as Istanbul and another from Cairo. Others are consolidating manufacturing into one mega unit instead of the multiple workshops that were previously located in the likes of Ajman or Umm Al Quwain when Dubai was unaffordable for such enterprises.
The correction in land and property prices is something that the real estate industry will take a long time to recover from, but it's certainly helping to put Dubai back on the path to growth.
For all our challenges, where else has the range of attractions that Dubai has to offer? People like to live here and that won't stop, it will only increase as the infrastructure improves even further. Where else in the world do you see such investment continuing into the road network? And we will soon – I hope – have a fully operational Metro with a fantastic feeder bus system.
If you were thinking of establishing a new office or relocating one to the Middle East, where else would you choose? Let's get back to basics. Dubai's great strength is its strategic location boosted by world-class transportation links. There are few cities anywhere in the world with as many direct flight options, and as business becomes more and more international that's exactly what is required.
Al Maktoum International Airport will open for cargo flights this June and it's surely only a matter of time before the excellent facilities at the new passenger terminal prove attractive to some of the low-cost carriers that are beginning to swamp Dubai International Airport's Terminal 2.
Al Maktoum International may be some distance from the traditional heart of Dubai but, let's face it, we have been spoiled by having our airport so close to the city centre. However, it is extremely well located for access from the UAE as a whole, with Abu Dhabi reasonably close and easy access from the Northern Emirates via the bypass, which I understand is ready to open as soon as it is required.
Housing costs roughly half as much to buy than it did just over a year ago and rents in the popular expat areas have come down by 30 to 40 per cent from their peak. And with top class performers seemingly arriving here in ever greater numbers there is no shortage of entertainment.
On the sporting front we have world-class golf, tennis and maritime events. And between Dubai Sports City, with its increasing number of international cricket matches, and the Sevens, with the new Dubai Football Sevens and Emirates Twenty20 tournaments to add to the fabulous rugby sevens, we are spoiled for sporting choice.
Burj Al Arab helped to put Dubai on the world map and Burj Khalifa is continuing this process.
Yes, the Western broadsheets have had a go at the financial challenges we face, but that is of little interest to the majority of the public in our traditional feeder markets who will continue to be drawn to the excitement and innovation of Dubai, particularly now that it is generally more affordable.
It may be a major stretch to be the Orlando, Silicon Valley, Bangalore, Wall Street, Harley Street, Disneyland, Sporting Capital, Paris Shopping, Bollywood and Hollywood of the Middle East, but Dubai will continue to give it its best shot. And given a few more years we might just make it. Dubai is bouncing back and that's good news for everyone.
- The author is Managing Director, Premier Inn Hotels, Middle East
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