Up until the global financial crisis, Dubai had one of the world's fastest-growing hotel scenes - a city literally reaching into the sky and across the sea with some of the most imaginative, expensive, and extravagant resorts designed anywhere.
The iconic Burj Al Arab was just one of the emirate's many super-resorts attracting the attention of the global rich and famous. An almost endless line of hotel projects was designed to compete and outdo each other. The Atlantis resort opened on the crescent of the man-made Palm Island, and Dubai's future seemed limitless. Urban construction was rampant, as was inflation, with hotel prices reaching the highest of any city in the world.
But the global recession hit Dubai's hotels hard, particularly in 2009, and occupancy and hotel rates plummeted as foreign travel diminished. Year-round discounts were offered to attract occupants and, in some cases, rates were slashed in half. With the 2009 announcement that Dubai World - a major investment arm of the Dubai government - would not be able to service its debt, a number of ongoing and future projects were canceled or put on hold. The hotel industry was in disarray and crippling debt cast a shadow over Dubai's future.
By 2010 the world economy was recovering and economic health began to return to the tourism sector. A revived economy and significant assistance from Abu Dhabi gave Dubai a new lease on life. Despite Dubai's fall from financial grace, chilly Europeans - particularly from the U.K. - continued to escape their winters for the U.A.E.'s endless desert sun. Discounts and promotions seemed to pay off, as hotel occupancy rates climbed.
Many of the world's top-name hotels are here, and some with multiple locations: Ritz-Carlton, Marriott, Raffles, Hyatt, Hilton, Fairmont, Sheraton, Sofitel, and One&Only, to name a few. The Jumeirah Group, overseen by Dubai's royal family, boasts some of Dubai's best-known resorts and hotels. These include the landmark Burj Al Arab, which is so big it almost eclipses the horizon, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Emirates Towers, and the Arabian palace hotels inside Madinat Jumeirah. Jumeirah Group also owns the desert oasis resort, Bab Al Shams, whose only real competition is Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa. A visit to either is like a trip to heaven.
Most of Dubai's entertainment revolves around the hotel scene, because hotels are uniquely permitted to hold liquor licenses, and therefore the majority of the city's top restaurants and virtually all bars and nightclubs lie inside hotels.
Most of the hotels listed are officially designated with four or five stars, which should not be confused with the zero- to three-star scale that we at Frommer's use.
The most extravagant, and expensive, hotels in Dubai are the international resorts lining Jumeirah Beach, which stretches for miles along the Gulf, and on the new Palm Island. The beaches here are beautiful - soft golden sand fronts a blue-green sea, with water as warm as the Caribbean. These world-class resorts offer amenities equal to the best establishments in the world. Most of them have spas, health clubs, sports activities, and beach centers with extensive watersports, as well as wide-ranging dining and entertainment options.
The hotels lining Sheikh Zayed Road are also very impressive. To lure travelers and ensure that Dubai is internationally recognized as the region's tourist capital, the sleek accommodations lining Dubai's main thoroughfare compete for design, luxury, service, and amenities. Dubai's twin towers, known as Emirates Towers, first set the stage for the road's surrounding architectural splendor, and today the hotels and other high-rises spanning the skyline form an urban desert wonder. Business travelers tend to stay on Sheikh Zayed Road, but these hotels also have extensive services for visitors who are on holiday, and they lie just minutes away from Jumeirah Beach and the best sights of old Dubai.
The old town consists of Deira and Bur Dubai. It's not as glitzy as The Palm, Jumeirah Beach, or Sheikh Zayed Road, but it has much more local flavor. The best hotels here overlook Dubai Creek, but they're also the most expensive in the area. For travelers seeking more moderate accommodations, Deira and Bur Dubai offer the city's least expensive options. We've selected the best of them, especially those that lie within easy walking distance of key cultural sites. If you want to stay in the old town of Bastakiya, the best options are the Orient Guest House, XVA, and Arabian Courtyard. Be cautious when choosing other hotels in Deira and Bur Dubai - some of the cheapest ones are used for prostitution and are simply not recommended.
Dubai hotels remain expensive by any standard, despite some fall in prices following the global economic recession. Rates are highest in winter and tend to drop 30% to 40% in summer (late June-Aug), but Dubai is so hot then that you may feel like you should be the one paid to stay during those months. There are occasionally discounts around some of the festival periods, as well. I strongly suggest you check Internet promotional deals on the hotel websites before booking. Sometimes travel agents will have access to the best promotional rates at five-star resorts. Alternatively, check out an Internet booking agency such as www.hotels.com or www.expedia.com who can probably offer good deals. Most hotels will quote prices in dirhams but can easily convert that to dollars, pounds, or euros. Foreign credit cards are widely accepted. All rates are subject to a 10% municipality fee and 10% service charge.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.