Traffic blues but no heartbreak hotel in sight.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ SHY Ventures
Wednesday, 17th May 2006
Now that I have come down (slightly) to earth after my trip to Dubai, I am seeing things less through rose-coloured glasses but through sand-covered ones.

Traffic in Dubai is a mess. There, I've said it. I am surprised that for all the vision they showed in all their other projects, they overlooked that most basic of things – roads.

Getting anywhere in Dubai is a struggle during peak hours which is pretty much the whole day, with the way business is prospering and the population is growing.

I am told that each day, 4,000 new cars enter Dubai's road network. My hotelier friends are full of trivia such as these.

Another useful piece of information I was told is that each year, the Dubai authorities collect up to AED360 million (US$98 million) a year in traffic fines which works out to just under AED1 million a year – which is slightly more than what Jennifer Lopez, who will be performing in Dubai this month, spends on her bling-bling.

According to my informed sources, the speed limit is 60km in residential areas and 80km on standard roads. For the freeways, the limit is 100 km per hour in built up areas and 120km in rural areas. "On some freeways this has been increased to 140km, however, the speed limit signage has not been updated to indicate this – which is confusing," said one source.

Personally I think this is part of a grand vision to collect the money that's needed to build what they are planning.

Anyway, the traffic's a topic of conversation not only among hoteliers but also taxi drivers of course who spend most of their time stuck in it.

One day, caught in the middle of the day in Dheira, I flagged down a beaten-down taxi which looked like it was on its last legs.

I knew it didn't look legitimate but I was that desperate – it was close to 40 degrees in the shade and I had been standing by the road for 20 minutes. The air-conditioning didn't work. The meter didn't work. The driver, I think, didn't work either. He didn't know the roads. "I from emirate there," he said, pointing over his shoulder. I looked back and saw a gigantic poster for Burj Arab, Dubai's soon-to- be-tallest building. I suppose that could be mistaken for a country.

Don't ask me how I got to where I needed but it was after a lot of huffing, puffing and panting?– him and his car mainly. "Dubai terrible. Many traffic," he kept saying.?

It reminded me of those bad old days in Bangkok when you daren't leave your hotel to anywhere without a Comfort 100 by your side in your vehicle.?

Bad traffic or not though, I have not seen so many smiling hoteliers in one city as I did in Dubai.?

Every hotel seems to be doing well and their rates would make hoteliers elsewhere go green with envy. The 615-room Jumeirah Beach Resort, which was full of Russians the week I was there, enjoys a year-round occupancy of 93-94 percent on an average rate of US$500, says Rosmalia Hardman, its director of marketing.

The Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, has the second highest Revenue Per Available Room in the Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts' family of hotels and it aims to be number one by year end, according to general manager Bernard Haechler.

And yes, of course, after admiring it from the outside, I had to see the iconic Burj Al Arab from the inside. What can I say except to say that it was definitely built to impress those who wish to impress?

This is Hotel Bling-Bling-Bling – it screams, look at me from lobby to suite to restaurant. Not my kind of place personally but I can understand its role in life.

Madinat at Jumeirah meanwhile is Arabian Nights meet Las Vegas. The twinkling lights at night, the grand hotels, the latest designer restaurants and bars.

And oh yes, the boat rides through its waterways. No cars are allowed here, only buggies.

Ah, the luxury of being in a bubble. So when is it going to burst? Your guess is as good as mine. They've been saying the bubble will burst for the last three years, yet it keeps ballooning

The SHY Report
A regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry by one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, Yeoh Siew Hoon.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".

She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is ‘free to do, and be'.

Contacts: Tel: 65-63424934, Mobile: 65-96801460

Check out Siew Hoon's new website, www.shy-connection.com, which features a newly-launched e-zine with a difference.

It reminded me of those bad old days in Bangkok when you daren't leave your hotel to anywhere without a Comfort 100 by your side in your vehicle.?/SPAN>Bad traffic or not though, I have not seen so many smiling hoteliers in one city as I did in Dubai.?

Bad traffic or not though, I have not seen so many smiling hoteliers in one city as I did in Dubai.?

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