High-rolling nightclubs still big business for Dubai

Gulf emirate is hottest destination for luxury nightlife brands keen to tap its high-spending residents
Mahikis London branch is known for its celebrity clientele
By Claire Ferris-Lay
Mon 30 Jan 2012 07:52 AM

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.

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.