Incentive Travel in Dubai


Incentive Travel in Dubai


Watching the New Dubai Take Shape


View of the Palm Jumeirah Emerging from the Sea

In 2000, after facilitating a workshop in Mumbai, I stopped over in Dubai for the first time. during my first trip to Dubai. I had a horse riding lesson at the Dubai Polo Club, relaxed and watched some polo. These pictures were taken on that day, 8 1/2 years ago.

When I was ready to leave, a handsome polo player from Rajasthan offered me a lift back to the hotel. I politely declined with my usual “Oh I wouldn’t want to take you out of your way”. His response was “Out of my way? The whole place is about 5 miles wide.” I laughed accepted his offer and he safely took me to my destination in no time flat.


I’m sorry I didn’t take a photo of the clock tower, which, at that time, was the most prominent landmark in Dubai. I met an elderly couple from the UK on that trip and the husband told me that when he had been in Dubai to help put in the infrastructure for electricity, the area around the clock was desert. When I went to Dubai in 2007 and 2008, I couldn’t even find the clock. It had been dwarfed by the construction.

This photo was taken when the Burj Khalifa,
now the world’s tallest building, was under construction.

In January, 2007, as I travelled downtown from the Oasis Beach Hotel where I was staying, I counted 100 mega highrises under construction before I gave up and stopped counting. This was an area that was, up until recently desert.

Notice the desert in front. The display shows what will be built in future.

On that same trip, as the taxi took me out to Bab Al Shams to go riding, I noticed huge displays in the desert highlighting the shape of things to come. This area is slated for development and 40 upscale luxury resorts will soon be springing from the desert sands.

Dubai: A Unique Destination for Incentive Travel

I like to think of Dubai as not one but 3 dramatically different incentive travel destinations, the Dubai of the past, present and future.

Dubai of the past includes Diera and the area around the Dubai Creek. Dubai of the present is an area of explosive growth towering skyscrapers under construction and modern shopping centres.


It can best be seen from any of the beach hotels. Dubai of the future includes the Palm Island trilogy and The Map by our clients upscale developers Nakheel. It also takes in the 40 luxury upscale resorts that are slated for development in what is now desert. You’ll pass this area on your way to the Bab Al Shams resort.

If you want to get a sense of Dubai’s history before it undergoes even more dramatic transformation, the time to see it is now. The world has come to Dubai….your company can’t afford NOT to be there. Consider this:

  • most Fortune 500 companies have some type of business activity in Dubai
  • while the myth that 25% of the world’s cranes are located in Dubai has been recently debunked, Dubai is booming and opportunities abound

To help you with your planning, I hope that you will find some of what I have picked up since 2000 to be of use as you consider Dubai for your next incentive trip. We’ll plan and organize your trip from start to finish and ensure that your team has a blast.

Plan WELL Ahead for Best Accommodation in Dubai

The most important tip is to plan WELL ahead. Popular hotels like the One and Only Royal Mirage and Madinat Jumeirah’s Al Qasr get booked up really fast. As hotel space becomes more scarce, prices do go up for accomodation and airline flights. To avoid disappointment, some of the most popular attractions must also be reserved well ahead of time to ensure availability for groups.

Dubai Arrival Information

Upon arrival, you will fill in an immigration and customs form. A portion of the card will be retained and you will be required to surrender it upon departure so don’t lose it. Visa requirements will be changing dramatically as of August 1, 2008 so make certain that you  carefully verify what is required.

Attractions to Build into Your Group’s Itinerary in Dubai

  • A MUST: A tour of the heritage section including Dubai Heritage Village, the Dubai Museum, the gold and spice souks, lunch at Al Dawaar Revolving Restaurant at the Hyatt Regency, and a Dhow Dinner Cruise
  • A desert safari (overnight for a special treat)

Yes that’s me in the picture.

These photos were taken during my first desert safari in 2000. I immediately realized that a desert safari would be an excellent vehicle for team building and started to agressively market Dubai as a destination.

A sales incentive trip or executive retreat is the perfect oppotunity to reward your team and also explore some of the business opportunities that Dubai may be available for your company. With airlines now flying directly from North America and Europe to UAE, an incentive trip to Dubai is more accessible now than ever. Dubai has much to offer as a destination for incentive travel. You can build desert, beach and mountain adventures into your itinerary. Dune bashing is not to be missed.

Then you’ll enjoy a scrumptious feast in a Bedouin camp with belly dancing.

Golf, scuba diving, horse riding, polo, abseiling, hot air ballooning, sky diving can be built into your itinerary.

Even skiing and ice skating are available for your enjoyment.

  • Jumana Desert Show
  • A day trip to Al Ain (See our blog entry about Incentive Travel in Abu Dhabi)


Al Ain Attractions

  • A Day trip to Abu Dhabi

Best Shopping:  Souk at Madinat Jumeirah, Mall of the Emirates, Ibn Battuta (named after the great Arabian explorer)

Before you Go

Dubai is ultra modern. You will find that technology is even more advanced than what you’re used to back home. I’ve never seen so many Ferraris and custom made Mercedes Benz’s in my life.

It is important to remember that, even though Dubai is ultra-modern, it is also routed in tradition and a proud history.

A Matter of Respect
Sometimes people forget that they are are travelling to a Muslim country with a vastly different culture than North America or Europe. The key is to make sure that you are aware of local customs, values and laws and that you respect them. Here are some examples:


  • Show respect for your hosts and keep noise level to a minimum during prayer time.
  • When eating be sure to remember to avoid using the left hand as this is used for bodily functions and it is considered unclean to use your left hand at the dinner table.
  • Illegal drugs are a definite no-no and penalties are STIFF.  Even some prescription medication that is perfectly legal in North America and Europe is prohibited. Some drugs that are over the counter in other countries are controlled substances in UAE. It is always best to check ahead of time and to carry your prescription and the original container.

List of Banned Substances
(Check with your nearest United Arab Emirates consulate for updates before departure)

  • Pornography is prohibited and posseesion carries stiff penalties.
  • Consumption of alcohol is permitted at some hotels, restaurants, night spots, and tourist attractions. Other than these venues, it should never be consumed in public. You can actually be charged for being drunk in public.
  • Neighbouring Sharjah is a dry Emirate and penalties for possession or consumption of alcohol are STIFF. Don’t even think of taking it there.
  • Kissing, holding hands or making out in public are not considered to be appropriate in public.
  • Don’t even think of having sex  in public. (Michelle Palmer and Vince Acors recently learned this the hard way after their arrest on Jumeirah Beach.)
  • Sex between unmarried couples is illegal and you are unlikely to be permitted to check into a hotel with someone who is not your spouse.
  • Women should not even think of topless sunbathing.
  • Nude sunbathing and changing of clothes in public is to be avoided by both sexes. (Authorities have recently cracked down on this and there have been numerous arrests.)

Suggestions for Dress

  • Long walking shorts are fine for the beach, resorts and desert safari but, other than that they should be avoided.
  • Women should be sure to wear blouses and dresses with sleeves that come to just above the elbows or longer.
  • Sleeveless tops are frowned upon for men and women but especially for women.
  • Skirts and dresses should be to the knees or longer.
  • Showing cleavage is a definite no-no.

While Dubai is more tolerant than some other Muslim countries and you will see some tourists wearing bikinis on public beaches, out of respect for your hosts, it is best to opt for a modest bathing suit.

Enjoy Your Trip to Dubai


For Help in Planning

You’ll find more helpful information at:

Official Dubai Tourism Portal

Let Executive Oasis International Take Your Team to Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Keeping these guidelines in mind will ensure your comfort and help you spend an enjoyable and memorable time in Dubai. It will be a unique incentive trip that your team will be talking about for years. Executive Oasis International would be pleased to build a customized itinerary in Dubai for your team based on your interests. We can also customize one of our own itineraries that give your group some down time and also a chance to really explore Dubai’s attractions, historical and cultural sites.

  • Desert Survival: In Search of the Golden Camel
    A business team building simulation with or without an overnight stay in the desert. Includes dune bashing, business exercises and cases, GPS/orienteering challenge, sunset picnic on the dunes, camel safari to a Bedouin camp, camel watering relay, traditional Arabian dinner enjoyed Bedouin style, option of overnight camping in traditional Bedouin tents, firestarter, and cooking challenge.

Contact us and we’ll show you how to get your Dubai familiarization trip for free from Toronto.



Anne Thornley-Brown is the President of Executive Oasis International, a Toronto based firm that regularly organizes incentive travel and executive retreats in Dubai. When Dubai Tourism did the Toronto leg of its North America roadshow, Anne was selected as 1 of 3 industry experts to serve on a panel to familiarize Toronto travel professionals with the destination.


5 thoughts on “Incentive Travel in Dubai

  1. If you are planning for Holidays To Dubai,you must seriously take note on this information, Summer temperatures in Dubai generally reach around 45-50 degrees centigrade with equally high humidity.

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