Wise up on what’s new in Dubai with Laura French’s guide to the top hotel openings to look out for in 2021.

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The world’s tallest building, the world’s highest hotel, the world’s biggest mall… The city of superlatives isn’t one to rest on its laurels and this year is set to be no different, with new resorts opening by the dozens, offering everything from artsy hangouts to culinary havens, luxury escapes to family adventures and plenty in between.

Many of them have been postponed from 2020, meaning there’s a double-whammy of newbies entering the scene, while the hotly-anticipated Dubai Expo is set to bring additional appeal to the city – at a time when it’s one of the few places in the Middle East you can actually go to (with PCR tests now being offered on arrival to simplify the process).

So what can you sell to clients looking to sample the city’s newest stars? We’ve rounded up some of the best, from late 2020 openings to those set to swing open their doors later this year.

1. Sofitel Dubai The Obelisk

Opened in October 2020 the lesser-visited neighbourhood of Oud Metha, this striking, obelisk-shaped structure has taken French art de vivre as inspiration and thrown in Egyptian-meets-UAE touches – think entrance doors reminiscent of an Egyptian temple, pillars adorned with hieroglyphics and a giant gold falcon on hand to greet guests. There are 498 rooms, each with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Dubai creek, with key draws including a L’Occitane spa, gym, kids’ club and outdoor pool with private cabanas. Restaurants span Asian, British and French – including Brasserie Boulud, designed by Michelin-starred celebrity chef Daniel Boulud – with a French-inspired patisserie and cocktail bar adding extra welly.

“Think entrance doors reminiscent of an Egyptian temple, pillars adorned with hieroglyphics and a giant gold falcon on hand to greet guests.”

Book it: From £110 per night for a Deluxe Room sleeping up to three adults and one child (room-only).
Sofitel-dubai-theobelisk.com

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2. Atlantis, The Royal

Originally scheduled to open in 2020 and postponed to 2021, this is set to be one of the biggest openings of the year, with 795 luxury rooms and suites – 44 of them featuring their own private pools – overlooking the Gulf. Stretching 43 storeys, it will feature a rooftop infinity pool and an impressive list of celebrity chefs heading up its restaurants – among them Heston Blumenthal, Gordon Ramsay and Gastón Acuri – with access to all the attractions Atlantis fans have come to know and love, from Aquaventure Waterpark to The Lost Chambers Aquarium and Dolphin Bay. “With its stunning profile, this looks set to provide even more choice for the discerning luxury traveller,” says John Poulton, destination manager for the Middle East at Gold Medal.

“Stretching 43 storeys, it will feature a rooftop infinity pool and an impressive list of celebrity chefs heading up its restaurants – among them Heston Blumenthal.”

Book it: Rates to be confirmed.
Atlantis.com/dubai/royal-atlantis

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3. Hotel Indigo Dubai downtown 

Direct trendy types to this creative hub of a hotel, opened in Downtown Dubai in late 2020 and boasting a yoga studio, 25-metre infinity pool and Levantine-inspired café among its highlights. Located a five-minute drive from the Dubai Mall, its 269 rooms take Dubai Creek for inspiration, with local art, hand-crafted wood furnishings and mother-of-pearl bathrooms paying homage to the country’s heritage. Food and drink options span healthy restaurant Open Sesame, Aperol specialist Orange Feels and a Satwa-inspired cocktail bar filled with colourful graffiti art, with a lively pool deck bar hosting DJs come night (one for the Instagrammers).

“Food and drink options span healthy restaurant Open Sesame, Aperol specialist Orange Feels and a Satwa-inspired cocktail bar filled with colourful graffiti art.”

Book it: From £78 per night for a Standard King Bed Pool View (room-only).
Ihg.com

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4. Hotel Riu Dubai 

Few openings look set to beat this beast on the family front, which launched in December with 750 rooms alongside a waterpark, five pools (two for children), swim-up bars and a spa, all set by the beach on new waterfront development Deira Islands. It’s a 20-minute drive from Dubai Creek and its atmospheric souks, but the biggest USP is its 24-hour all-inclusive offering, which provides round-the-clock snacks and drinks, alongside themed meals at its smattering of restaurants, nightly entertainment, daily activities at the RiuLand kids’ club, and watersports such as kayaking and paddleboarding.

“The biggest USP is its 24-hour all-inclusive offering, which provides round-the-clock snacks and drinks, alongside themed meals at its smattering of restaurants.”

Book it: Emirates Holidays offers three nights’ all-inclusive from £739 per person, based on two sharing a double room with flights from Heathrow, for travel on select dates between May 1 and July 6.
Emiratesholidays.com

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5. Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah

The first Marriott Resort in Dubai, this oceanfront property is set to open on the Palm in September with a private beach, pool, spa, fitness centre and ‘Kidz Club’, plus eight restaurants serving Korean, Italian, Mexican, Japanese and beyond. There’s also a rooftop bar serving Peruvian food – complete with a garden maze at its entrance, in true Dubai style – and every room comes with its own private balcony, offering views across the glimmering Gulf. It’s handily located on the Palm’s West Promenade, with watersports on the doorstep and key attractions including the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall a short hop away.

“It’s handily located on the Palm’s West Promenade, with watersports on the doorstep and key attractions including the Burj Khalifa a short hop away.”

Book it: Rates to be confirmed.
Marriott.co.uk

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6. Rove La Mer

The latest addition to Dubai’s quirky, budget-friendly Rove collection, this trendy outpost has just opened in the heart of the eclectic La Mer district with a pool, casual restaurant and wallet-friendly rooms in a central location. “There are just two room types for ease of selling, alongside interconnecting room options,” says [checking name] of Premier Holidays. “They’re fully equipped with all the essentials and each feature a Juliet balcony with views over the city or sea.” It’s a stone’s throw from the beach and its eclectic, palm-lined promenade – all colourful street art, trendy boutiques and hipster coffee shops – and sits sandwiched between Downtown and the Al Fahidi Historical District, making it an ideal base for exploring both.

“This trendy outpost has just opened in the heart of the eclectic La Mer district with a pool, casual restaurant and wallet-friendly rooms in a central location.”

Book it: Premier Holidays offers four nights from £599 per person (room-only), including flights from Heathrow in May.
premierholidays.co.uk

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7. Address Beach Resort

The newest kid on the block in the iconic Jumeirah Beach Residence district, this opened in December with 217 rooms and suites in a 74-storey-high, double-tower complex also housing residential apartments. “Address has some lovely properties in Dubai, and this is the brand’s first beachfront property,” says Uma Campbell, product and marketing manager at Lusso. “It looks set to be an excellent addition to the city’s beach hotels and overlooks Blue Waters Island, home to the iconic Caesars Palace.” There’s a private beach and spa, with restaurants serving Lebanese, Brazilian and beyond – but the crowning glory is the rooftop infinity pool, which lays claim to being the highest in the world (ah, Dubai).

“There’s a private beach and spa, with restaurants serving Lebanese, Brazilian and beyond – but the crowning glory is the rooftop infinity pool, the highest in the world.”

Book it: From £235 per night for a Deluxe Marina View Room, sleeping up to three (room-only).
addresshotels.com

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8. Hilton Dubai Palm Jumeirah

Dubai isn’t exactly short on Hilton properties, but this one looks set to steal the show on the culinary front when it opens later this year, with some of the city’s most popular venues opening outposts at the hotel – including Trader Vic’s, home of the original Mai Tai; Claw BBQ, known for its American feasts; and Jones the Grocer, a ‘food emporium’ focused on artisan suppliers. The all-new Factory Bar + Kitchen by McGettingan’s will meanwhile put a modern, cocktail-serving twist on the city’s iconic Irish bar, while an all-day dining venue and French-inspired Salon de Thé mean there’ll be no going hungry, whatever the hour. There’s also a kids’ club, spa and ocean-view pool, with balconies in every room for idyllic skyline views.

“This hotel looks set to steal the show on the culinary front when it opens later this year, with some of the city’s most popular venues opening outposts here.”

Book it: Rates to be confirmed.
Hilton.com


New attractions

Museum of the Future: Currently under construction, this six-storey, futuristic feat – built using robot-made pieces depicting Arabic calligraphy – is set to open soon with a series of immersive experiences that use virtual reality, big data analysis, artificial intelligence and other high-tech innovations to explore questions around the future of humanity.

Ain Dubai: This is set to become the world’s highest Ferris wheel when it debuts on the JBR beachfront in the spring, reaching an impressive 210m and offering 360-degree views over the city, while bringing a number of new dining and entertainment experiences to the area.

“Dubai Parks and Resorts is set to get its first Lego-themed hotel this year, with Lego-themed rooms, a Lego castle play area and candy-coloured exterior.”

The View at The Palm: Just in case Dubai’s existing smattering of sky-high viewpoints don’t satisfy, The Palm Tower is adding another one in the form of The View, a 240m-high observatory offering panoramic vistas from its 52nd floor – reached by a three-minute, immersive lift up from the Nakheel Mall – and complete with an interactive museum, café and souvenir shop.

Legoland Hotel: Dubai Parks and Resorts is set to get its first Lego-themed hotel this year, with Lego-themed rooms, a Lego castle play area and candy-coloured exterior among its features, while Bollywood, Lionsgate and Motiongate will expand with several new attractions.


World Expo 2021

The hotly-anticipated World Expo 2020 got held back to this year, for obvious reasons; it’s now set to go ahead from October 1 to March 31, 2022, with exhibitors from more than 190 countries showcasing cultures and accomplishments from across the world through a series of immersive experiences housed in Pavilions – from a US space exhibition to Amazon-inspired sensory experiences, a Stephen Hawking-inspired area and plenty beyond.
Expo2020dubai.com


Ask the expert

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“Dubai is perennially one of our most popular destinations, always in our top three. When the travel corridor was granted a few weeks ago, we saw an instant triple-digit increase in demand for winter-sun travel in 2021, and that level of interest has been maintained since.

Next year will be an especially big year for the city with the opening of the postponed Dubai Expo, and there are, as always, some very exciting hotel developments to look forward to. We’re really excited about The Royal, Atlantis, and the new 24-hour all-inclusive Riu Dubai, which is bound to be a big hit with families looking to get great value and convenience.”

– John Poulton, destination manager for the Middle East at Gold Medal


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