Four Can’t-Miss Group Tips for Dubai Travel

Sailboat Hotel

I can’t contend to being an expert on Dubai travel, but during a whirlwind five-day FAM hosted by Visit Dubai there was plenty of takeaway for event and group trip planners to consider. Here are some suggestions for groups to ponder when visiting the UAE’s most spectacular city, based on my experiences and what really clicked for the hundreds of meeting planners and media who took part in the immersive visit.

Get out in the desert and party. I would say the highlight of the FAM for a large proportion of our contingency was an evening at Al Sahara Desert Camp, hosted about an hour outside of the city proper in and around a fortress-like structure that looked like something out of a Foreign Legion film from the 1930s. Camel rides, exotic foods, falconers, cool pop-up stores and hookah smoking added to the fun atmosphere, as did some posh tent stanchions with lush cushions and colorful tapestries.

Al Sahara Desert Camp

Don’t forget the culture. Another eye-opening experience for our group was a lunchtime visit to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, highlighted by time-tested Arabian architecture and the presence of numerous sheikhs and a traditional mosque. During a casual group meal with countless trays loaded with exotic delicacies, we were treated to an informal lecture from an Arabian Sheikh that provided some insights from the Islamic perspective on a variety of topics, including spirituality and feminism. In a locale that has only officially existed in its present state since 1971—and is home to residents from all over the world—this is an excellent way to actually experience some of the age-old heritage of the Middle East.

Sheik Mohammed Centre

Have a ‘moving’ experience. Our group explored numerous treks and tours during the FAM journey, from Segway excursions to helicopter rides out of the spectacular Atlantis The Palm resort. A personal highlight was a boat ride on the snazzy Bateaux Dubai along the Dubai Creek, which is a superb way to see some of the city’s more ancient areas in complete comfort. Also amazing was climbing aboard the most high-tech elevator you’ll ever see to reach the viewing platform a hundred stories or so high upon the towering Burj Khalifa—which is, almost unbelievably, more than twice the height of the Empire State Building.

Burj Khalifa

Revel in the resorts. Regardless of where your group stays, consider taking a tour or hosting an event at one or two of the other amazing properties in Dubai. Exploring the famed sailboat hotel is a must, and a group meal at Atlantis the Palm’s Ossiano—with sharks and manta rays swimming by your tables in the floor-to-ceiling aquarium glass—is also worthwhile. For an impressive evening event, consider the Madinat Jumeirah (below) where guests can board ‘abras’ (akin to an Arabian gondola) and float through a serene canal to a courtyard alive with music, entertainment, elegant outdoor food kiosks and posh indoor spaces as well. Visit Dubai held such a celebration here for a final-night send-off, and it was simply spectacular.

Madinat Jumeirah,

 

The West’s Best Spot For Incentive Trips?

It’s a rough day at Gateway Canyons Resort as I stand inside a hangar-like structure faced with one of the toughest decisions of my travel life. Do I take one of the Bentleys…the Porsche..? Maybe the Shelby Mustang GT or the Tesla Roadster?

In the end I go with the red Camaro convertible, as it’s a sunny day and it’s my kind of car—easy to drive and lots of power. And five minutes later, after the friendly folks at the resort’s Driven Experience compound have filled it with gas, I’m zipping through the canyons and bluffs thinking, this has to be the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

But then my mind flashes back to the experiences our FAM trip has packed into the weekend visit and it’s a toss-up. In two short days our group of about 10 has taken an ATV convoy into the hills, ridden horses to a luxurious cowboy cook-out deep in the woods, and taken a helicopter flight through some of the most dramatic scenery outside the Grand Canyon. That’s not to mention stargazing, poolside lounging with cool cocktails and dinosaur fossil-hunting with the on-site ’Curator of Curiosity’ by the name of Zebulon Miracle.

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Oh, and did I mention one of the best massages of my life at the resort’s spa? A trip to a car museum with vintage automobiles? This is without even delving into the basic hospitality of the sprawling resort, including elegant cuisine and lodgings that include my ‘casita’—a standalone adobe beauty with high ceilings, comfortable king bed, big-screen TV and massive bathroom highlighted by a large tub and even an outdoor private shower area.

The brainchild of Discovery Channel founder John Hendricks, Gateway Canyons is about an hour south driving time from Grand Junction, Colo., and is probably best-suited for smaller groups and events, as it currently only comprises 72 lodging units and around 9,000 square feet of event space. When it comes to families, some of the outings are a bit on the grownup side, so parents with teenagers might find it a more rewarding escape than those with younger children.

But any way you slice it, this is a uniquely wonderful place—whether you’re seeking adrenaline rushes, spa-enhanced bliss, or a memorable combination of serenity and excitement.

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