Opinion: Dubai's Doldrums


When Travel Agent was in Dubai last May, hotels were humming, the beaches were dotted with half-nude bodies and the markets were filled with tourists. Ten months later, word is that Dubai, an emirate that over the years has poured in millions to build itself up as a tourist magnet, is all but a ghost town.

Seems that the U.S. economic troubles have stretched well outside its borders. A recent New York Times piece cites Dubai's free-falling economy, as jobs continue to dry up and foreigners flee.  

Dubai is know for its lavish extraordinary hotels. But they are no good to any hotelier unfilled. Deloitte conducted a recent study on Middle East hotel performance, which stated that growth began to decelerate in September (the very month when the economic turmoil began) and fell in tot he red during the month of December—down 3.2 percent. The report further stated that Dubai continues to have the highest average room rates at $300. But some disturbing news is coming for Dubai, this time from the UK, which has been a huge feeder market for the region.

"For the UK traveler," says Robert O'Hanlon a partner at Deloitte Middle East, "the UAE has become 30 percent more expensive over the past three months as a result of the strengthening U.S. dollar [UAE currency is dollar pegged] so the UK pound has gone from AED 7.5 to AED 5. This makes Dubai very expensive from the UK traveler perspective."

Meanwhile, word is that many Dubai hotels have slashed rates by as much as 15 percent to shore up demand. Worse, new projects are at a halt (Donald Trump is one of the casualties) as the real estate bubble has officially burst. Take a look at this article in the UK's Guardian, which further explains Dubai's financial crisis.

Even Dubai's annual Shopping Festival has foundered as the LA Times points out.

Where it goes from here is anyone's guess. One thing is for sure: They've come way to far to pack it in now.