Despatches From Dubai

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending the EPCAS (The European Party Caterer Association) Winter General Assembly 2016 in Dubai, a gathering of some of the biggest names in European food & beverage, and event catering. Delegates included representatives from across our Industry, from boutique party caterers to contract catering giants, as well as global food service companies. We came from UK, France, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg and more, and given Europe’s collective rainfall of over 30 metres per annum, meeting under the intense Emirati sun seemed the right place to be!

Stepping off the plane, one is immediately struck by the sheer scale of Dubai; a skyline littered with the world’s tallest buildings, brand new infrastructure, as well as unmistakable opulence, luxury and excess. Everything is on a huge scale from expansive hotel atriums to plush bedrooms and lavish restaurants. The Dubai Shopping Mall is a mere 12.5million square feet!

In the 1990s Dubai was nearly all desert, so the City in its current form has to be

a record-breaking hospitality ‘pop-up’!

This is all the work and vision of the UAE’s leader, Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum whose aim is to make Dubai ‘one of the best countries in the world’ by 2021. This was the sentiment of the keynote speech, given by the larger-than-life Andy Cuthbert, General Manager C&I, Jumeirah Hospitality at Madinat Jumeirah.

The Assembly itself was a melting pot of ideas; we discussed global food trends, best employment practises, and training programmes for the next generation. All discussions were punctuated with the fine–dining and entertainment for which Dubai is renowned.

In terms of scale and size (hospitality-wise), Dubai dwarfs London and perhaps other European counterparts with an ‘in-your-face’ experience

the levels of hospitality staff are consistently, if not embarrassingly, high

however, I would still maintain that our approach has more subtlety and style.

The showcase city of the United Arab Emirates prioritises the customer like no other, and despite the murmurings and anxieties about the price of oil and the City’s future, all money has been spent in the name of the guest experience. In London, by comparison, we place more emphasis on the business intention (we don’t do indulgence for indulgence’s sake, our age of austerity wouldn’t allow that)

our hospitality has become a marketing exercise

where brand-building and return on investment lead the way.

Nonetheless, the level of indulgence that Dubai offers is quite unforgettable as we experienced over and over again. A Champagne Tea in the award-winning Atmosphere Lounge of the Burj Khalifa, the planet’s tallest building at 2716 ft, certainly puts the rest of the world into perspective!