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Saturday, 16 March 2013 06:54

ASTA IDE 2013 Comes to Dubai

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Having recently returned from a trip to Dubai, I would advise any of our readers who are considering attending the upcoming ASTA IDE in Dubai from April 4-7 to do so. It is a fascinating country, unlike anywhere I have ever traveled before. As one of my fellow journalists put it, it is the land of superlatives. It has the world’s tallest building, the world’s tallest hotel, the world’s only 7 star hotel, the world’s largest man-made islands, the world’s longest remotely operated monorail, the world’s largest malls and now will host the world’s largest international gathering of U.S. Travel Agents. Over 600 travel agents are expected to attend this year’s IDE.




What can agents expect to see in Dubai?

Let’s start with our list of superlatives: the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building, standing a staggering 2,717 ft high. This is 1,000 ft taller than the 2nd tallest building in the world. In a city with an impressive skyline, it dominates. The observation deck on the 124th floor offers 360 degree panoramic views of Dubai and the Gulf.

The five star JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is the world’s tallest hotel. Its twin towers each have 72 floors with a total of 684 rooms. The first tower opened in late 2012, and the second tower is due to open in fall 2014. The hotel features 10 dining venues offering a wide variety of culinary options. Each has a distinct uniquely designed interior to create the perfect dining ambiance. There are also four bars and two lounges. It should be noted that in this Islamic country, alcohol is only served in hotels and lounges. Rooms have all the latest technological amenities including LCD TVs, iPod stations, Wi-Fi and a master room control tablet. The bathroom features a separate shower and a free standing tub placed in front of a window for amazing views while bathing.

And speaking of hotels - let’s not forget the Jumeriah Burj Al Arab, the world’s most luxurious, and only seven star hotel. Its unique sail design is clearly discernable on the waterfront. Located on a man-made peninsula, access is gate controlled. Only those with a room or dining reservation are permitted to enter. Once you enter the lobby, a tasteful kaleidoscope of colors and water features greet you. It is said that prior to opening, the ruling Sheik did a site inspection and found the white walls too plain and “suggested” that some color be added which started a frantic race to “colorize” the interior prior to opening. His vision paid off. The view from the open atrium up 27 floors is filled with vivid, greens, yellows and blues. The hotel features one, two and three bedroom suites, the smallest of which is 1,800 sq.ft. and the largest Royal Suite is a staggering 8,400 sq.ft. 


Rates start at $2,700 per night for a one bedroom suite, and the Royal Suite comes in at just under $20,000 nightly. To visit the property, book a table for high tea. Prices start at $70.

Adjacent to the Burj Al Arab is the Madinat Jumeirah that will be the venue for the IDE. This massive complex consists of two grand boutique hotels, as well as 29 courtyard summer houses, a traditional souk and Dubai’s largest conference facilities. The complex is built to resemble an Arabian Citadel. It is uniquely Arabic in style and decor and a series of waterways and canals provide easy water transfers around the property. All rooms in the two grand hotels feature private balconies, free internet access, large bathrooms and separate dressing areas. An extensive beach will lure IDE attendees.


What to do in Dubai?

A city tour is included in the IDE program and is a must to get a feel for how this city has grown from a small fishing village in the 70’s to the massive high-tech metropolis it is today, just 40 short years later. There are dozens of buildings that are built in a modernistic, contemporary style and would be landmark buildings in another other city in the world but here are commonplace. The city is divided by “the Creek” and a quick ferry ride will bring you from the new city to the old, while providing great perspectives of both. Especially interesting are the derelict looking ships you encounter when arriving in the old city that still haul anything and everything around the Arabian gulf. Upon arriving in the old city, the Spice and Gold Souk awaits. This warren of shops promises great bargains on gold and spices, among other things, for those who want to put their haggling talents to the test.

One extremely interesting tour I took was a breakfast and tour of the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, which was created with the goal of breaking down cultural barriers and helping different nationalities understand the traditions, culture and religion of the UAE. We enjoyed a typical breakfast of chickpeas, dates, small donut hole like pastries and of course coffee, known here as Ghowa. The director of the center, Mr. Nasif Kayed, hosted our breakfast and encouraged any and all questions relating to Islamic culture and traditions.

No trip to Dubai would be complete without a trip to one of the malls for some shopping and entertainment. Ski Dubai, at the Mall of the Emirates, is the Middle East’s first indoor ski park offering skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing on its slopes. January and February is time for the shopping festival where any purchase over $75 garners a raffle ticket for high end prizes.

The highlight of my trip was an afternoon and evening trip into the desert. Just a 30 minute ride from the hotel brought our group to the edge of the desert where our driver got out and lowered the air pressure in the tires for some dune-bashing. We followed no perceptible trail as our driver wound his way through, over, and around sand dunes and up and down steep inclines. It is like a hour long roller coaster. 
Great fun!

Afterwards, we joined other tourists at a Bedouin camp in the middle of the desert. We were served a Bedouin barbeque dinner while “whirling dervish” dancers entertained. Later we joined the others around a fire at the Shesha Pit where we were given Hubbly Bubbly’s of shesha (a fruit flavored tobacco) to smoke. I highly recommend this authentic and enjoyable evening tour. For more information contact: 24 Degrees Tours ( or Emirates Airline owned Arabian Adventures (


About the ASTA IDE

IDE is a destination-training program like no other. You’ll not only learn how to sell Dubai ... you’ll live it. Better still, you’ll make personal connections with local suppliers and build profitable long-lasting relationships. You will receive a Dubai Destination Specialist certification, along with intensive on-site education. Get first-hand destination knowledge through complimentary sightseeing and specially priced pre- and post-tours.

IDE delegates can choose from select properties in such well-known areas as Sheikh Zayed Road, Jumeirah Beach, the Palm, Dubai International Financial Center, Business Bay or Deira. Official functions will be held at the iconic Madinat Jumeirah. The Official Conference Hotel - JW Marriott Marquis Dubai.

Emirates Airline is the official airline  for ASTA IDE and is offering special fares to participants. Visit

Read 1514 times Last modified on Sunday, 17 March 2013 17:46
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