The pace of development in Dubai ensures short breaks and stopovers in the emirate never go out of fashion and new additions are appealing to families as well as couples.

“Key openings this year include Dubai Safari and the Dubai Opera House. These attractions are expected to attract even more families and experience seekers to Dubai from the UK and beyond”


Short but sweet

One of Dubai’s strong points is its suitability for short stays. An obvious stopover option, it packs a staggering choice of world-class hotels and attractions into a small, easy-to-explore space. Short stays can easily be tacked on to visits to nearby emirates such as Abu Dhabi and investment in Dubai’s cruise terminal has helped facilitate a boom in Middle Eastern cruises.

Such points, combined with the excellent airlift and an endless stream of new product, helped attract more than 14.2 million overnight visitors in 2015 and the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing aims to grow this to 20 million by 2020, including two million from the UK.

Meanwhile, an increased focus on the family market is manifesting itself in a theme park boom, adding to Dubai's already impressive range of attractions, with championship golf courses, luxury spas and gourmet cuisine among the lures for adults.

Events such as horseracing’s Dubai Gold Cup in March and the Dubai Rugby Sevens tournament in December, sold through the likes of Gullivers Sports Travel and Horse Racing Abroad, also offer strong hooks for short stay sales.

View to kill for

Taking to the skies is a great way to take in Dubai’s futuristic cityscape. Helicopter tours, offered by operators such as DoSomethingDifferent, are a great option. A helicopter ride to the Burj Al Arab for a Champagne and cocktail pairing features in Celebrity Cruises’ new Private Journeys programme.

Thanks to the proliferation of rooftop pools and lofty bars and restaurants you’re never far from a cracking view, however. Burj Khalifa’s 148th floor observation deck is a whopping 555m up and from late 2016 visitors will be able to catch dramatic views from the glass-floor bridge atop the ‘Dubai Frame’ in Zabeel Park.

Perfect 10

  1. Grab some free time: Save your client’s some Dirham with complimentary activities such as Dubai Fountain and Dubai Aquarium shows and horse and camel racing at Meydan and Al Marmoum racetracks

  2. Go wild: For animal encounters consider Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Atlantis The Palm’s Dolphin Bay, Dubai Aquarium and the new Dubai Safari — and don’t forget Penguin Encounter at Ski Dubai

  3. Be a sport: Plan a trip around events such as cycling’s Dubai Tour or horseracing’s Dubai Gold Cup. For upcoming options see:

  4. Be sand-tastic: Wadi-bashing dune safari packages incorporating desert camp hospitality remain a local tourism staple while accommodations such as Al Maha offer high-end desert retreat stays

  5. Pound the streets: Take to the streets on January 20 2017 for the 17th Standard Chartered Dubai Marathon

  6. Get some park life: From October thrill-seekers can enjoy the rides at both the new IMG Worlds of Adventure and Dubai Parks and Resorts. Ad the little ones will love old favourites such as Wild Wadi, KidZania and Sega Republic

  7. Enjoy the spa treatment: Wellness fans will love offerings such as Angsana Spa in Dubai Marina, ESPA spa at the Nikki Beach Resort and opulent Talise Ottoman Spa at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray

  8. Go back in time: For glimpses of the old Dubai head to Bur Dubai for the historic Al Bastakiya or Al Fahidi district, characterful souqs and Dubai Museum

  9. Grab a bargain: Check out the Dubai Summer Surprises retail event from July 9- August 20 2016, or time a visit to coincide with the January-long Dubai Shopping Festival

  10. Party like it’s 2017: See the year out in style in Dubai with spectacular celebrations, fireworks galore and toasty temperatures

What the experts say

“The number of overnight visitors to Dubai from the UK grew by 10% in the first quarter of 2016 compared to the same period last year. Between January and March 334,000 Brits travelled to the city for one night or more, consolidating the UK’s position as Dubai’s leading European visitor source market and its third largest overall”

“We expect UK visitor numbers to continue to increase in 2016 with a number of theme park openings planned in the second half of the year — IMG Worlds of Adventure in August and Dubai Parks & Resorts in October.

“Friday brunch is a must, whether it’s a leisurely occasion with family or more of a party vibe with friends. Suggest Saffron at the Atlantis and Al Muntaha at The Burj Al Arab, to name a few”

“For the summer months hotel rates are almost 50% less than usual, meaning a five-star stay in Dubai often works out cheaper than a three- or four-star hotel in the Mediterranean,” she says. “Most hotels offer added value extras such as ‘children stay free’ or free half-board during the summer months too.”

“I would advise agents to book a city and beach combination and book ahead! Airfares are higher closer to departure so any saving on the hotel room rate is immediately absorbed by the cost of the flight. Also pre-book any tours or excursions to avoid disappointment — particularly if visiting the Burj Khalifa which is often booked up months in advance.”

“Hotels such as Golden Sands or Al Barsha by Mondo offer amazing value for money and are very well located to take advantage of all that Dubai has to offer.” 

What’s new

Accommodation: Dubai plans to grow its hotel bedstock from around 100,000 to 150,000 by 2020. July saw Dusit open the 237-guestroom dusitD2 Kenz Dubai in the TECOM district. The 106-guestroom Four Seasons Dubai International Financial Centre includes the spa and rooftop terrace with glass-walled pool. 

Hot new openings coming soon include Viceroy Dubai and the Nikki Beach Resort, both at Pearl Jumeirah, Bulgari Resort & Residences on Jumeirah Bay Island and Jumeirah’s 300-room Venu on Bluewaters Island, whose other attractions will include a souq and Dubai-I, the world’s largest ferris wheel. Madinat Jumeirah's new Al Naseem extension opens in December. 

A 281-room, five-star Hard Rock hotel is set to open in the fourth quarter in the Marina 101 building in Dubai Marina and the planned Royal Atlantis Resort, next to Atlantis The Palm, will be topped with scenic rooftop areas and Sky Pool.

Attractions: Theme parks is another hot area. IMG Worlds of Adventure will purportedly be the world’s largest indoor theme park when it opens on August 15, with rides based on popular Marvel and Cartoon Network characters.

The humungous Dubai Parks and Resorts, opening in October, will feature more than 100 rides and attractions over three main theme parks — Legoland Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai and the Hollywood-inspired Motiongate Dubai — and a Legoland water park, with AMG Management handling UK travel trade sales.

Other new attractions include the 400-hectare Dubai Safari Project, featuring elements such as a botanical garden and children’s zoo, and Dubai Crocodile Park. Both will open some time in the third quarter, with the Museum of the Future opening sometime next year. More cultural offerings include the first phase of the Dubai Opera House and Dubai Opera District, opening September.

Other projects planned include the sprawling Mall of the World; the Dubai Canal project, which will join Dubai Creek with the sea when completed in 2017; and turning the ‘trunk’ of Palm Jumeirah into a mile-long walkable beach, park, retail and café complex named The Palm Promenade.

Operators: Meanwhile SuperBreak is in the process of re-launching its Dubai programme. Chris Hagan, the operator’s Head of Overseas product, says the new programme features around 40 properties and has a focus on experiential packages and excursions from desert safaris and Arabian Nights to seaplane tours and theme park packages. By giving agents access to all airlines operating between the UK and Dubai they can easily create flight inclusive packages too, he says.

Where to book it

ITC Luxury Travel offers three nights in a Resort Deluxe Room at Jumeirah Al Naseem start from £1,449pp, room only, for travel from January 10 2017, including flights with Emirates from Heathrow.