12 May 2010

Dubai - Reset

The headline this morning may seem quite dramatic. Here is the coverage from ATWonline:

Emirates fiscal-year profit soars to $1.1 billion

Emirates Group reported net income of AED4.2 billion ($1.14 billion) for its fiscal year ended March 31, a substantial increase over a AED1.49 billion profit in 2008-09, marking its 22nd consecutive profitable year despite what it described as "a year fraught with worldwide market instability and economic uncertainty."

So this morning there are a lot of happy people in Dubai and smiles all round in that nice new building that is their HQ.

I was in Dubai for the Annual Arabian Travel Mart last week and I spent some time speaking to many people from the business, who live in the region and Dubai itself. While ATM was - shall we say a bit quiet - I don't have the numbers but as a seasoned show goer - it was quieter than I expected.

There has been a significant downsizing. Perhaps not of the total economy but definitely of people's expectations. The two ex-pat communities are both notably chastened by the bursting of the bubble. There is still a correction on-going. There are wonderful anecdotal tales of people whose job it is to move the tower crane so it looks like the building is still being built. What is not anecdotal are the canceled and delayed projects. Even the closely controlled newspapers are full or projects where the boosters are denying that they have been canceled. But suffice to say the boom curve is a lot flatter and a lot further out. Next month will see another mini-exodus of expats at the end of the school year. Some broken dreams will be realized.

Out at "The World" the essence of extravagance - there is but one lone property occupied. It looks a little forlorn but I am sure its owner is very happy.

For the travel marketplace - this will take some time to smooth out. There is an excessive amount of inventory that needs to catch up to the travellers. Strangely enough Dubai and Las Vegas share a lot more of issues than they might think.

However overall I am impressed with the way they have dealt with the bust. The taxi drivers sound a little happier (always a good sign). And the flagship of what the airline means to the rest of the world is giving them pride again. The price was heavy and will continue to be so. How much and exactly what form is unknown to all but a few.


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