Dubai: a game of horses for courses

Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing and Etihad Airways took six senior product staff from luxury UK tour operators that currently feature Dubai on a fam trip for five days in March.

The trip aimed to update the operators’ knowledge of Dubai’s luxury product, as well as look at new activity facilities in the emirate.

dubai feature 040506 - polo 3They visited new properties, including the luxurious Grosvenor House hotel, Park Hyatt hotel and Bab Al Shams Desert Resort, and dined in style at the Burj Al Arab, on board Bateaux Dubai and at the new Indego restaurant at the Grosvenor House.

But the highlight was sampling Dubai’s new activity centres and, among other things, the group spent a day at the newly opened Dubai Polo Academy. So what did they think of it? How easy is it to learn polo in a day and would they recommend it to their clients?

John Camara, product development manager, Air Travel Corporation
On: The highs and lows of the polo day

“I absolutely loved it and will definitely go again. It was such an enjoyable experience and far exceeded my expectations – there were no low points to the day at all! I’d never ridden a horse before and at first I wasn’t really sure about doing it, but the instructor was very friendly and so patient that it was all fine. He really knew what he was talking about. The only slight embarrassment was that when I jumped off the horse I did walk strangely for a few minutes, especially since it was my first experience riding. But even as a complete beginner I loved it. l’ll definitely be recommending it to clients, especially now I know so much more about the sport and the experience.”

Delphine Lawrance, product manager, Expressions Holidays
On: The tuition at the Polo Academy

“I’d only ridden once before and that was many moons ago, so I was a bit nervous before we started, but we had a good teacher. There was a lot to learn in two hours and it was very impressive how much we got through and how quickly he managed to teach us. The night before, we didn’t really think it would be possible, but by the end of the lesson we were all able to ride and hit the ball, which really surprised me. The grounds weren’t completely finished when we were there but everything was looking really good. I’d like to do it again. It’d be a really nice thing to do with a group of friends.”

Jayne Price, product manager, Sunset Faraway Holidays
On: Tips for learning polo

“I’d ridden a horse before, so although I was a bit rusty I wasn’t a complete beginner. It was still a bit of a challenge for me though, especially hitting the ball from on top of the horse. My advice would be don’t take it too seriously; just enjoy it. Someone who rides seriously would probably have a whole different attitude but I think when you’re in a whole group it’s fun and you can just have a laugh. Relax and enjoy it. Although it was a challenge, we still enjoyed it and I’d go again.”

Lydia La Rue, partner business development, Stylish Resorts
On: Would you suggest polo to customers?

dubai feature 040506 - polo 2“I would definitely recommend customers give it a try if they’re going to Dubai, especially now I’ve done it myself – I’ve already suggested it to customers since I’ve been back. Even if they’ve never ridden before, I’d encourage them to give it a go – it was my first time and I found it very exciting and interesting; it’s a nice thing to do as you find your way around Dubai. Even if customers don’t want to play polo, I’d recommend they go to the club, because you can have a lovely meal there at the restaurant, or even have a massage. Anyone can have a try at playing though – it’s very easy.”

Geoff Dykes, managing partner, Peregrination
On: Ski Dubai

“I’ve never skied indoors before but it was superb. The place is an incredible feat of engineering, with the chairlift, the half-way station, the black run down one side – it’s very well designed. There’s even a toboggan run and an area for youngsters. There are chalets next door to the slope you can see the it from your room, and you can even watch from inside the shopping mall. It’s a very smooth operation, and it wasn’t too busy when we were there – although if it was, I can imagine it might be a bit frustrating as the chairlift is a bit slow. I will definitely recommend it to clients. It’s great that you can go skiing and sit on a beach in the same day. Dubai is the playground of the world, and all it was missing was skiing!

hotel check

dubai feature 040506 - hotelARABIAN COURT AT ONE & ONLY ROYAL MIRAGE, DUBAI

Where is it?
On a kilometre of private coastline on Jumeirah Beach in 60 acres of landscaped gardens, about half an hour’s drive from Dubai international airport.

What’s it like?
The Arabian Court has 175 rooms decorated in Arabian style, including 10 suites. Deluxe rooms offer interconnecting doors for larger families or groups. The property has a subtle entrance leading to a grand gallery with a pool, fountains and walkways. The Royal Mirage resort has two other properties – The Palace, with 200 rooms, and Residence & Spa, with 50 rooms.

Sleep tight?
All rooms are sea facing with a private balcony or garden patio. Bedrooms have low lighting, a TV, desk, safe and mini-bar, while spacious bathrooms include walk-in showers. Some rooms have secluded balconies overlooking lush gardens bordering the beach.

Smiley service?
Staff are very efficient, friendly and determined to ensure visitors have an enjoyable and relaxing stay.

Eat in or out?
Either, but if it’s convenience as well as good food clients are after there is a great selection of restaurants and bars at the resort. The Arabian Court’s restaurants include a stylish floodlit eaterie overlooking the pool called Eauzone, and a modern Indo-European restaurant Nina. If clients want to mix with the locals, it’s worth going to the hotel’s Arabian Courtyard for a traditional mezze and shisha, or taking a taxi into the city to check out the restaurants.

Anything else?
There is a complimentary transfer service between the resort’s hotels so guests can sample the restaurants and bars offered in the other properties. The Palace has a travel agency which can organise excursions. There is also the Givenchy Spa at the Residence & Spa with steam baths, sauna and massage rooms.

Sample product
A deluxe room at the Arabian Court at One & Only Royal Mirage per night on a half-board basis costs from £240 in May, with 10% commission paid to travel agents.

Total rating: 27/30

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