With its state-of-the art skyscrapers, extravagant hotels, glamorous bars and designer-filled malls, Dubai is a five-star metropolis in the Arabian desert. Add to the mix the year-round warm weather, the tax-free salaries, the continual flow of heavy investment being poured into the city, and Dubai has become a very attractive new market for British businesses.
"Many of the UK businesses that we speak to often talk about having reached capacity in the UK and/or a lack of growth, so when they look at certain industrial sectors in the region, they see opportunity and the potential for growth in Dubai," says Neil Isaacson, chairman of the British Business Group for Dubai and Northern Emirates. "Dubai's laws, regulations and free zone authorities, along with the work the UAE government is doing to actively encourage businesses of all shapes and sizes to set up here, and the ability to repatriate profit to the UK, makes Dubai the standout place to set up in." And the tax-free salaries make the city a very attractive option for employees to want to emigrate to, adds Issacson.
London-based beauty trade magazine and exhibitor Professional Beauty is one such firm that has set up business in Dubai. The company launched its magazine in Dubai in 2014 and set up its exhibition there earlier this year. Managing director Mark Moloney says that Dubai had wide-ranging appeal, describing it as "the hub of the spa and beauty industry in the Middle East". While Moloney admits that the market was slightly challenging to enter - with initial set-up costs higher than the UK - he says there are many people and companies specialising in helping European companies to navigate the regulations. "In short it's not the place for a short-term buck, but if you're willing to invest for a longer-term return, it a good place to do business."
After a buoyant exhibition this year, Professional Beauty plans to double the size of its trade show in Dubai next year. Dubai's economy, underpinned by tourism, construction and real estate, is forecast to increase by 5 per cent this year. It's not surprising given Dubai is the most internationally invested city for residential real estate in the Middle East, according to recently published research by property firm Savills. The report put the city's success down to "its multi-layered appeal as a business and leisure destination for a range of European and Middle Eastern markets". It added: "What makes Dubai's long-term prospects stronger than many other centres in the region is its reputation as a global centre of business."
Tourism remains an important part of Dubai's economy, and the destination continues to attract a rising number of foreigners. Dubai Airports said that the number of passengers increased a staggering 29.6 per cent to 6.68m in July. Its strongest level of growth stemmed from Eastern European travellers, with an increase of 77.6 per cent helped by new services from Flydubai to Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia.
Although its extravagant new hotels and projects mean Dubai naturally hogs the limelight in the Middle East, attention on the city will reach dizzying heights over the next five years as it prepares to become the host city for the Expo 2020. Isaacson for one is upbeat about the prospects that global event will bring to the region.
"We've already seen a long list of British companies that would like to help make this Expo the best ever. The Expo will help to bolster Dubai's economy and along with the recent announcements of building theme parks and major projects, the outlook looks really positive for Dubai's economy over the next five years."
One of these includes the 210m Dubai Eye, billed to the world's largest Ferris wheel. It's set to open on the $1.6bn Bluewaters Island, off the coast of Dubai's Jumeirah Beach Residence, where the wheel is expected to sit next to a bespoke souq, residential homes, and a fivestar hotel. The development will be yet another string to Dubai's sparkling bow, and one that will help keep the tourist numbers sky high and the economy ticking in a city that only does things with unrivalled extravagance.
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