Few of Dubai’s well-heeled night club owners were surprised when a receipt from Dubai’s Cavalli Club, Restaurant & Lounge for AED387,988 ($105,629) surfaced on the web this month.
The emirate’s status as a less conservative holiday hotspot coupled with its booming hospitality industry is attracting a slew of western nightclub brands to the city, all looking to capitalise on the growing nightlife scene.
London-based nightclubs Mahiki, Cirque du Soir and Movida have all opened branches of their famous clubs in Dubai in the last four months.
“Dubai has gone from a sandy holiday resort to a major international destination in the last few years. You can definitely seen an upward trend in terms of the tourists coming here; they don’t just want to enjoy the sun, they want to enjoy Dubai, its restaurants, its clubs and bars,” Mark Merran, founder of Movida, told Arabian Business.
Movida Dubai’s owner, Evgeny Kuzin, has spent approximately $10m fitting-out the Movida’s first nightclub outside London but expects to recoup his investment within a year.
“Movida is very well known in this market….All the VIP clientele of Dubai have visited Movida in London,” he said.
Movida, a popular hangout for celebrities in London, said tables at its Dubai club had been fully booked three nights a week for the last month. Prices for a table start at AED5,000 and reach upwards of AED80,000 while the average guest spends around AED1,000, said Merran.
“It’s been a big success. In my experience night clubs don’t really reach their full potential for about three months…..it takes a while for it to filter through to the general public so I think we are ahead of the curve,” he added.
Dubai was one of the hardest hit by the global economic downturn, which forced many expatriates to return home and saw tourism figures decline. But the emirate’s safe haven status amid the Arab Spring alongside its luxury hotels, restaurants and nightclubs has boosted tourism.
Passenger traffic through Dubai’s international airport rose 8.9 percent year-on-year in November while Dubai was the region’s only destination to show a rise in hotel occupancy and revenue per available room in 2011, according to Ernst & Young.
Travel and tourism contributed 16.6 percent – or $42.56bn – to Dubai’s GDP in 2010, according to estimates from the Abu Dhabi Economic Development Department.
The French Polynesian themed nightclub Mahiki, a reported favourite of Prince Harry’s, opened its doors in November.
“We looked at lots of cities all over the world…..the reason Dubai worked so well is because it seemed to be in a very similar position to where London was six years ago when we opened the original Mahiki,” said Matt Jolley, general manager at Mahiki Dubai.
“The economic situation in the world did play a part [in our decision to open in Dubai]. Dubai and the UAE in particular seemed to be much more stable than the rest of the world. And because you that have high-end tourists, the spenders [it works],” he added.
Cirque Du Soir, a circus-themed night club that features contortionists, sword swallowers, magicians and fire eaters, opened in November. The club’s owners, the Pragma Group – who also own Cavalli Club – said it’s “not uncommon to see guests spending hundreds of thousands of dirhams in one evening.”
The Dubai-based group, which saw revenues at its Cavalli club increase 40 percent last year, said the emirate continues to attract a high spending clientele from Russia and the GCC.
“Dubai.....has successfully positioned itself as an international hub and gateway for the world’s travelling community, as well as a tourist destination in its own right. Visitors to Dubai, especially those familiar with its exclusive leisure and hospitality offerings, are willing to spend to get the ultimate experience,” said Joe Tabet, chairman of Pragma Group.