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‘Made in Dubai’ Is the Next Global Brand

Skift Take

Dubai has tried and failed to set up its darling hotels in global hubs. But things are different now: The city has boomed since the pandemic, and investors overseas are now reading its success story. Introducing “Brand Dubai,” coming to a city near you.

In the Middle East, Dubai has become the benchmark for Gulf metropolises, acting as a safe haven for the rich, a developers’ playground for mega-hotels, and an increasingly competitive global tourism destination. The Dubai brand’s crown jewel is its luxury image. 

In 2019, Dubai had its best year ever for tourism, drawing in 16.7 million international visitors. In 2022, it brought in $29.4 billion in tourist spending, according to a WTTC report, almost double London’s $16.1 billion.

Why stop there? In 2023, Dubai’s ruling sheikh, Mohammed bin Rashid, launched the Dubai Economic Agenda, looking to double the size of the emirate’s economy over the next decade and consolidate its position as a top three global city. 

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And now, Dubai is gearing up to go global.

Brands such as Jumeirah, Emaar Hospitality and Atlantis could be much, much bigger overseas and have been “late” to expanding, according to analyst and head of hospitality at Knight Frank, Turab Saleem.

“It has huge potential. So, it is the right time,” said Saleem. “It is now time to go out and show your muscles and spread around the globe.” 

The Case for Going Global

There are two key reasons for international expansion: First, so the Dubai brand can be experienced outside the emirate, and second, because the city itself is running out of space to easily build more lavish hotels.

Setting up “Dubai experiences” in the emirate’s key feeder markets will be a powerful tool to supercharge international visits.

“If you want to prioritize your expansion, you go where your feeder markets are because brand presence there will help locally [in Dubai] also,” Saleem said.

Outside of the other Gulf states, Dubai’s biggest source markets for tourism are India, the UK, the U.S., China, Germany, and most recently, Russia.

Saleem stressed that Dubai must establish more of its hospitality brands in the U.S. and China especially.

“These are the two global powerhouses of tourism. You can’t be a global brand if you’re not present in the global destinations,” he said. 

Global Expansion for Atlantis and Jumeirah

Dubai’s major local hotel groups aren’t yet in the U.S. That includes Jumeirah, which operates the Burj Al Arab; Kerzner, which operates Atlantis; and Emaar Hospitality, which operates Address and Armani hotels.

Originating from the Bahamas, Kerzner today effectively operates out of Dubai after the government took a major stake. It has the Atlantis The Palm resort it opened in 2008 and the nearby, even more luxurious, Atlantis The Royal next door, opened last year. Together, they have more than 2,000 hotel rooms.

With two mega-hotels side by side in Dubai, the Atlantis brand is looking to other markets capable of sustaining such a colossal property. 

In October 2023, Kerzner announced the formation of Atlantis Global, turning its Dubai-headquartered brand into something that will scale overseas. It is led by Las Vegas native Timothy Kelly.

In May 2023, Kelly said he wanted as many as four more Atlantis hotels around the world, joining his two on Palm Jumeirah island. “Atlantis is not even a hotel,” said Saleem. “It is a demand generator machine. Any destination which will have Atlantis, the destination will flourish.”

Jumeirah has also been warming up to the U.S. “We’re keenly looking at the U.S. … we’re currently in conversation with many brokers around the world,” said the group’s CEO Katerina Giannouka to reporters last May.

Both Jumeirah and Atlantis operate properties in China, but they are rarely publicized in Dubai.

Since joining Jumeirah, Giannouka has made her ambition to turn the company into a global operator clear. She launched the group’s “2030 Mission” to transform the luxury hotel chain from a “regional champion” to a “global brand with global reach.”

Jumeirah made its debut in 1997 when Jumeirah Beach Hotel opened and the company joined state-run Dubai Holding in 2004. Presently, the group boasts 26 hotels, nine of which are outside the Middle East. They are in Mallorca, Maldives, Nanjing, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Capri, Bali, and two are in London.

In February 2023, Jumeirah acquired Le Richemond, a luxurious hotel nestled along the shores of Lake Geneva, which will reopen as a Jumeirah. And in March 2023, Dubai Holding snapped up The Westin hotel in Paris for $708 million. It was the vision of Jumeirah’s previous CEO, Jose Silva, to turn this very hotel into a Jumeirah one day. 

Elsewhere in Europe, the hospitality brand of Armani – operated by Dubai’s Emaar on behalf of Giorgio Armani – announced plans back in 2013 to open a hotel in London but the deal never went through.

Emaar solely largely focused on regional growth up to now, with its off-shoot affordable brand Rove having said that hotels in Europe are a possibility after growing in the Middle East further.

Rove COO Paul Bridger told Skift: “We have an interest in international markets, particularly feeder markets into Dubai. We have a few opportunities in Europe and Asia, but 80% of our focus is in the Middle East.”

“The UK would be top of our list [for a hotel], London and Manchester have a lot of flights [to Dubai]. Any of the major cities would be a good launching point. Amsterdam would be great and we have interest there. It would be good in Paris. You’ve got to start somewhere. Brand building in a couple of key cities would be helpful for us.”

Discover all of the Skift Megatrends 2024, as well as listen to related podcasts and view sessions from our New York City event.

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