Death of Sheikh Maktoum, Emir of Dubai

Rapid tourism growth and timeshare development expected to continue and possibly escalate, despite passing of innovative leader.

On January 4, 2006, Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid al-Maktoum, died of natural causes at the age of 62. Sheikh Maktoum was the Vice President and Prime Minster of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Emir of Dubai. The Crown Prince of Dubai, who is also the Defense Minister of the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, immediately succeeded his older brother as the new Emir.

While Sheikh Maktoum’s passing means a short term shutdown of most businesses in Dubai, including the stock exchanges in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and all governmental offices, it may in the long run mark the start of some of the most dramatic business expansion the tourism and hospitality industries have ever seen.

Sheikh Maktoum was a forward thinking man, but his younger brother and successor Sheikh Mohammed, is a true business visionary. Sheikh Mohammed is already renowned as the “intellectual architect of Dubai’s building boom,” and many believe that as he steps into his new role, the best is yet to come.

In case you do not already know, Dubai is a roughly 550 square mile (3,885 km) man-made oasis/playground, and is one of the seven emirates that comprise the federation of the United Arab Emirates. It is bordered by the warm waters of the Persian Gulf to the north, Saudi Arabia to the south and west, and Oman to the east.

Dubai has grown in recent years into an international hub for business, tourism, and recreation. This financial escalation is primarily the result of Sheikh Mohammed’s recognition that new revenue sources would eventually be needed to replace Dubai’s dwindling oil reserves. (The capital, Abu Dhabi, holds most of the oil reserves for the UAE.)

Dubai already boasts the world’s largest man-made offshore islands (shaped like palm trees no less), 500+ hotels (including one of the world’s only 7-star properties), unsurpassed shopping (24 karat gold can be purchased for a third of its going price in Great Britain), indoor snow ski slopes, beautiful beaches, and theme park recreation that rivals the famous Mouse. It is the most culturally tolerant of the Middle Eastern countries and is only a short hop for millions of visitors from the Middle East, India, Asia, and Europe.

This remarkable tourist mecca is no longer one man’s opulent dream. 100,000 visitors from Great Britain will holiday there in the next three months alone. Conservative projections plan for 15 million annual visitors by the year 2008.

And what are they building in Dubai to accommodate all their guests?

Why, timeshares, of course. Dubai is highly security oriented, with a family-friendly atmosphere—an ideal match for the typical timeshare vacationer.

I’ve mentioned “the Orlando of the East” previously in this blog, but don’t just take my word for it. David Clifton, Interval International’s Marketing Director for Europe, the Middle East, Asia, and Africa said (during the September 2005 Timeshare & Resort Investment Conference held in Dubai), “Dubai and the Middle East have set a clear objective to become the next tourism destination of choice. …The key factors are all there—a cosmopolitan atmosphere, creativity, a strategic location at the crossroads between Europe and Asia, as well as great weather and shopping. …Timeshare is a major piece of the puzzle that will help drive intra-regional as well as international visitors to Dubai and Arabia.”