If you look at the Emirates as a whole, there’s a big story happening with the Hyperloop. And
I think what we’ll end up with is what I’d like to call the ‘Gold Coast of Arabia’. There’s a lot of coast line from Ras al-Khaimah to the Saudi border that’s yet to be developed. It’s going to be a coastal
megalopolis, and I think that’s the ultimate goal — to become this coastal resort community.
The raw math that’s been done shows that basically the country can triple the amount of people it attracts just by focusing on the upper middle class and wealthy populations that are within an eight to 10 hour flight from Dubai. One of the interesting statistics is that there is more retail in the city of Dubai than in all of Canada. Think about that – there is less retail in Canada stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific than there is in Dubai!
So if you’re in Africa, and you’re wealthy and want to shop and relax, where are you going to fly to? You’re going to go to Dubai, and that’s a catchment of almost three billion people from Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia. If 10% of those have got the wealth to get on a plane and spend some time in Dubai, you can then expect maybe 10% of that population to choose Dubai for a second home. We’re now talking 30 million people.
So Dubai is going to focus on attracting and retaining that 30 million. And what do they want in a second home vacation market? Hotels, coastline, community developments. And let’s face it, if you’re a Fortune 500 company and you want a regional office that you can use as a springboard into Africa or the Middle East, Dubai is going to be your choice.
So it’s not just about resort development – that’s a prime driver, for sure – but with that will come more and more Fortune 500 companies setting up places of operation.
It’s a cycle, really. You see the new museums, the Opera House – all of these are luxury market items. We’re working on art galleries now and the next level will see the growth of the resort vacation home market. Saudi probably has four or five million people who can afford a second home in Dubai, or in the Emirates. And it’s a thumbprint away from the exit and entry of their country, so it’s a great vacation spot. And is that the same for other countries across surrounding regions? Yes. It’s a huge catchment, and it’s largely untapped.
It’s all poised to happen, but it’s a matter of time. The political will is there to take the whole of the Emirates to the next level.
This piece was written by Phillip Jones, principal and managing director at B+H Architects, as part of Middle East Architect’s ‘Dubai: The Next Decade’ series. Firas Hnoosh from Perkins+Will and Joe Tabet from JT+Partners have also contributed pieces.