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Hospitality Adventures in Dubai

Dubai - Fall 2015
FIU’s study abroad experience in Dubai offers exploration and familiarization of a major international tourism destination.

Second post – While in Dubai

By Dubai

Attraction: Burj Khalifa
The Burj Khalifa attraction is something I have never seen or done before. We have the Empire State Building, but I have not been able to do that Yet. Learning about it and having to experience is something out of this world.

Let’s start off by the entrance. It is smooth and hectic free; it amazed me. Usually, attractions like this one are packed with people and there are lines to get in even after buying the ticket. I saw that there was a lot of people movement but you didn’t really feel it, they have it well set up in a way that it flows. It is not too packed in a sense that ruins the experience for everyone. If I compare it to the Empire State Building, it is a hassle to even buy tickets, make the line and eventually go up. Organization at its finest here at the Burj Khalifa.

Site visit: Atlantis
Atlantis blew my mind away. Hospitality here is something that the States is lacking. I work at a hotel, and making comparisons was extremely easy, from the walk-in experience to the exit. Guest experience is fundamental at Atlantis, something that should be applied everywhere in the world, but specially the States since it is a country that everyone has the highest expectations of.

The guest is the #1 priority and with more than 1000 rooms, they are still successful at it. With their check in and check out experience, they make it as easy and hassle-free as possible. With the in-room option and different front desks to do it from, there are no lines at any given time. If too many people are checking in, they open the next station further in. That is something I could definitely apply in my hotel because we do get a lot of check-ins  to a point that lines build up and the check in experience is completely ruined. This is something I could really improve in my hotel since that is one factor that is hurting in our reviews.

Furthermore, here in Dubai they never say no to a guest, if it’s impossible to accommodate or achieve, they find their way around it — the sky is the limit. That is definitely another motto that I am going to apply for myself, my guests, and my employees; they all should be trying their absolute best to satisfy the guest and create a memorable experience that lasts a lifetime.

Doing the walk around I noticed how every single employee greeted everyone with a genuine smile that was very hospitable, and it showed how much they enjoy their work and appreciate guests, which it results in the guest feeling warm and welcome. I had not noticed before how important a smile is until I started making comparisons against the hotels in the U.S.  Afterwards, to finish of the tour, we closed by having a presentation from a very successful hotel company (Kerzner) that was so persuasive that it made the majority of us want to work with them. I gave them my business card and, for sure, will be contacting them for a future here or anywhere else around the world.

This is definitely helping me in becoming a world citizen by simply making the smallest connection with potential employers, providing them with my business card, and being able to have someone around the world that could potentially give me a job someday. Another way this is making me a global citizen is by meeting our amazing tour guide, learning about a new culture and places that could come up in a conversation at any given time and being able to say “while I was in Dubai…,” and having that knowledge of what the real life experience is.

Half Way Here

By Dubai

Hello Wanderers,

How do I even begin? After five days in Dubai I can tell you with certainty that I never want to leave. In such a short amount of time, we have visited so many attractions and learned so much about this city, its people, and the hospitality industry here. It is kind of overwhelming to think about it all, so I will write about what has been my favorite so far.

The Nakheel Group presentation was definitely a top notch presentation. I enjoyed learning about how the Palm Island and other artificial islands were developed and how Nakheel sells the land to hotel brands and other developers to then create the hotels and attractions we see today. I also enjoyed how informative, entertaining, and knowledgeable the presenter was and her ability to answer every question.

It was exciting for me to sit through a presentation about a topic that I understood very well. I love that I was able to find a place where hospitality meets my undergraduate studies. Most importantly, it was interesting to see the less seen yet most important part of opening a hotel: LOCATION! After learning about how the land was developed and the categorization of high and low-density islands, I began to think about the trickier parts of choosing a location for a hotel or an attraction, not to mention the numerous obstacles that must follow when trying to meet all the requirements and regulations posted by the developers. Having learned about this process will really make me much more knowledgeable about the industry and make me a more aware manager in my industry because now I know what precedes the opening of a hotel, and I can actively participate or even consider working for hotel development companies.

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Of all the attractions we have visited, I truly enjoyed the cultural dinner at the oldest house in Dubai. I learned a lot about the culture here in Dubai and about the people who live here. It was wonderful to eat the food and openly discuss cultural differences. It was at this event that I realized that I know little to nothing about the Muslim culture and Muslims in general, but am happy for the time we had and everything I learned. This is definitely an experience that has made me a better citizen of the world because it has opened my eyes and mind to the truth about who the Emirati people are, and it has made me more interested in learning about other cultures that I know little about.

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Although we are half way done with the trip there is so much more to see and experience, so I’m off to get some rest before our next adventure.

Together In Wandering,
Alexandria

Most likely leaving my heart in Dubai

By Dubai
It’s with a heavy heart that I must announce that we have completed day 4 of physically being in Dubai, which has been a beautiful and outstanding experience! Our outstanding tour guide, “Ms. M” (Mozhgan),  has shared some phenomenal information that that has allowed us to learn more about the rapid development the UAE has produced in a short period of time – approximately 20-40 years.
On Wednesday, we were privileged to have learned more about the Nakheel Project at the Nakheel Sales Centre. We learned about how the fast-paced development turns ideas into reality. Interestingly enough, not only is infrastructure being added onto the Palm Islands; they are intelligently creating them to be safe for everyone as well as eco- and tourist-friendly. From the flashing lights on top of high skyscrapers to guide the flying planes, to air conditioning in the bus stops to keep people cool, Dubai is emerging into this futuristic city that people like me cannot resist!
They have everything here in Dubai! I’m always in awe with all the wonderful ideas that have been placed on what was once just desert. At the Nakheel presentation, we also learned that all the sold properties in the World Island have either high or low density, meaning if someone bought an island that has low density (they used less sand), they cannot have a huge skyscraper or large hotel with other large prortioned features because the weight would be too much for the man-made island to sustain. We also know that 70% of the islands have been sold. I was really impressed with all the information and models that they had in their building as well as their building techniques.
When we went to the Burj Khalifa yesterday, I was simply amazed of seeing architecture at its finest. To begin with, we got on the fastest elevator in the world which reaches the top of the building in a about 1 minute to the 123rd floor! Just like everyone else, I felt my ears pop the entire ride. When I got to the top and looked up I became scared because it was just too much to think that I was so high up. I swore the building was moving! It was really hard to wrap in my head that all the tall buildings from the ground now looked so belittled! The view was simply beautiful!! I enjoyed every second of it and hope to come back to Dubai again.  I am seriously in love with this place! & with all honesty, I am not home sick at all!!!
I <3 you, Dubai !

Meanwhile in Dubai…

By Dubai

We have been in Dubai for several days, and I am in love! The culture, the fast growing hospitality industry, and the friendly people who take pride in everything they do makes this an amazing country. Yesterday I was on FaceTime with my best friend,

The SMCCU visit was truly one of a kind. SMCCU stands for Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding which opened in 1998. It is a non-profit organization that gives tourists information about the history, culture and religion of Dubai. We received hands on knowledge from Sharif who is a local Emirati. He was so well spoken and was ready to answer or clear up any misconception that we had about people from the Middle East. We learned a lot about the culture, the traditional outfits, and how Dubai became a country. But even though they have a rich heritage, they are very welcoming to visitors: 80% of the population are from other countries and 200 nationalities are in Dubai.

We visited a mosque and ate a traditional Arabic dinner that always begins with Arabic coffee and dates. The coffee cups are small and only a little coffee is poured to make sure that it remains hot. You sip the coffee, which is unsweetened, then take a bite of the date, which is sweet. We ate family style – large portions on the rug and everyone serving themselves.

In addition to learning about the culture, Sharif explained the reasons behind the traditional clothing. I volunteered to model the traditional khamir. He said that it is a woman’s choice to wear it and not a requirement. You would assume that wearing black would be hot in the Middle East but wearing dark clothes is actually cooler for you.12371148_1027237013963978_5680064207915105622_o

When we took the monorail to Atlantis, we were about to see the houses and buildings that make up the Palm Island. At the end of the monorail is Atlantis. The Palm is a man-made island but not the only one. From inside Atlantis, you can see The World Islands, which are man-made islands of continents of the world. Since Dubai is a Muslim country and gambling is illegal, it does not have a casino like the one in the Bahamas. Our tour guide showed us the presidential suite that is always guarded by security, has three bedrooms, and a huge living room.

Last night a few girls and I went to a night club. It was a lot different from the U.S. but also very similar. The atmosphere was amazing and the people were so friendly.

 

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Dubai Mid-Trip Post

By Dubai

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Hey guys! I can’t believe the trip is already halfway through! It has been an incredibly wonderful learning experience. I really have been enjoying every minute we have been here from the culture to the food and the people. Our Dubai Museum educational visit really helped me learn more about the history of this city, their culture, and the people. I got to see how settlement began here in the small villages and forts with only trade, fishing, and pearl diving as the main economy. In time, Dubai was forced to search for an alternative income because of the invention of artificial pearls and that is when Sheikh Saeed helped develop the country into the global city we now recognize.

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One of my favorite attractions so far has to be the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa. The structure is truly mesmerizing and can be seen from almost any point in the city. It gleams like the ocean when the sun hits it and once inside you can see as far as the World Islands on a clear day — and luckily for us it was very clear. The building measures 2,722 ft and houses the world’s fastest elevators, reaching the observation deck on the 124th floor in 60 seconds. It is also home to the world highest restaurant, nightclub, and prayer room, and has also broken numerous other records.

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This experience has definitely opened my eyes to cultures I had very little knowledge about and has better helped me understand Middle Eastern customs as well as their form of doing business. Meeting with successful people in the industry has given me an inside look at what it takes to reach the top. I have also gained global citizenship skills and awareness through these experiences by immersing myself in the country and interacting with the people of Dubai. I look forward to continuing my trip and can’t wait to check back in with more details!

All the best,
Andrea M.

Loving Dubai

By Dubai
Hello Again!
We have been in DubaiBoats for 4 full days and we have 5 more. I am surprised by how hospitable everyone has been and how much English there is on signs and being spoken. In the Metro, first there would be a recording in Arabic and then one in English. On most of the street signs and advertisements there is also both languages.
In terms of hospitality, Dubai is doing it right. They are so friendly and willing to help in any situation. So far we have had some pretty amazing experiences, Burj al Arab, Burj Kalifa, the souk, the Dubai Museum, a traditional abra ride on the Dubai river (pictured to the right) and presentations from Nakheel, Kernzer and Byblos.
I really enjoyed stopping by the malls because who doesn’t love shopping? No, but seriously I consider these malls to be attractions. The two malls we have visited are also connected to the Metro, which makes the transportation very convenient. The Dubai Mall is the biggest mall in the world according to sq km and is attached to the Burj Kalifa. There is also an aquarium, an underwater zoo, a souk (pictured below)Mall, a waterfall, and a skating rink located at Dubai Mall.  The variety of stores and restaurants is impressive and makes the experience more enjoyable than visiting a traditional mall in the United States. The Mall of Emirates also has attractions such as Ski Dubai and the cinema (if you want to consider that as an attraction- I do because it creates another reason for visitors and locals to come). Both malls’ architecture and attention to detail makes it stunning to walk around.
The presentation I found most enjoyable and beneficial was the Kernzer Presentation at Atlantis, The Palm. There are 1,539 rooms, 166 of those are suites and 7 are signature rooms (1 is the Royal Bridge Suite). Three FIU alums greeted us when we entered and preceded to be our tour guidesAtlantis throughout the resort! Two are currently in the Manager in Training Program and one graduated from the program and is now working there.
We were able to see the Royal Bridge Suite! This was truly a once in a lifetime experience, unless I become a millionaire. We saw the zero entry pool, the east and west towers, and a model for phase two (800 hotel rooms and 250 apartments). Then we went into a meeting room and had a presentation by two recruiters for the MIT program. This was extremely helpful in learning about the company’s culture and what to expect in an internship of this caliber. The Panther Pride continued to escalate when we were informed that the current CEO is also an FIU alum. Kernzer’s vision is to ‘create amazing experiences and everlasting memories.’ Atlantis is achieving this through their own vision ‘checking into another world.’
I am excited to see what the next couple days has in store for us. Some of things we will doing over the next 5 days includes Ski Dubai, Ferrari World, and a desert safari.

 

Mid-trip Blog Post: Dubai

By Dubai

Hi readers!

Today is December 17th, 2015, its my third day in Dubai and so far it has been nothing but an amazing time. I am honestly so glad I made the choice in attending this study abroad trip because I have gained so much knowledge, made so many wonderful memories, and experienced so many new things I have never experienced before.

Although all of the educational visits have been wonderful, so far my favorite educational site visit would have to be the Nakheel presentation the Nakheel Sales Centre.

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I really enjoyed this presentation because I was truly amazed to see how far Dubai has progressed and developed within the recent decades from a desolate desert to one of the world’s fastest growing tourism cities. All of the future projects that are currently under construction for the World Expo 2020 Dubai are absolutely mind-blowing. I was honestly in shock through out the whole presentation because I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that Dubai is planning to expand and improve their city in so many different aspects when it is already a wonderful tourist destination! Learning about Dubai’s history’s and near future was an awesome and interesting experience and I was really engaged throughout the presentation.

Just like the educational site visits, the attractions at Dubai have been fantastic as well. My favorite attraction so far however has been the tour at the Atlantis Hotel in Palm IslandScreen Shot 2015-12-18 at 12.04.06 AMIt has always been my dream to vacation at an Atlantis Hotel, and although we didn’t stay at the Atlantis property, today on our tour, it sure felt as if I got the whole experience. Not only was the tour very informational and detailed, but it was great to know that all three tour guides were FIU Alumni. It was awesome to see people who used to study the same courses as me, at the same university, live their dream jobs. My favorite part about the tour was the Royal Bridge Suite, which I never even knew existed. We were able to observe the rooms and step out on the balcony, which had the most gorgeous view of Palm Island. Afterwards we had an informational meeting about Kerzner, which was also very enriching. The tour of Atlantis was my favorite attraction on the trip so far, and it made me feel secure that I picked the right university for my career because I saw how successful the FIU Alumni employees are with their career.

I cannot wait for the remainder of the trip! Dubai has really been a life-changing experience so far 🙂

Dubai – mid trip post

By Dubai

Today was our third day of touring Dubai. So far, we’ve had the opportunity of touring some of the most elite hotels in Dubai as well as learning about different hospitality with groups through presentations. Yesterday afternoon, we had the opportunity to meet with the Nakheel real estate group. They showed us a fascinating presentation on how Dubai has grown as a city these past few years as well as what their group has been able to accomplish in the newly thriving hospitality industry in Dubai. I found it extremely interesting to learn about how Dubai has grown. I also found it interesting to learn about who was behind the Palm Island concept; after all, it’s a symbolic piece of Dubai. We were able to understand the technical aspect of the construction of Palm Island, particularly how each shape plays a specific role in preserving the island. image

To our delight, we were able to tour one of the hotels on Palm Island – Atlantis. Even though the tour was extremely informative, it was also very entertaining. The attention to detail when it comes to architecture and the interior design is phenomenal. It really made me view the hospitality industry from a tourist point of view allowing me to fully understand what differentiates good and bad in the industry. I loved how Atlantis accommodated everyone and made sure to keep their guests busy and satisfied. I now fully understand why traveling is such a fun experience for people while staying in luxury hotels. imageimage

Being able to participate on all these tours and educational presentations has really helped me to understand their culture. I now understand what is expected of the people of Dubai and how it differs from the hospitality industry in most places.

First Couple of Days in Dubai!

By Dubai

The first couple days for my very first trip to Dubai has been great! I love this city and have learned so much that I was so unaware of! This is really a remarkable city unlike anywhere else in the world. We have gone to many places, like the Burj Al Arab, Nakheel Properties, Byblos Group, and Atlantis just to name a few. It was great to visit each and every one of these places!

One company that really amazed me was Nakheel Properties. To see one business do so much for one city on the scale that they are doing it and actually making these properties a reality is something out of a fairy tale. It is literally unreal how they are able to do the things they are doing! Seeing their current work progress in person, like Palm Island and the Nakheel Mall was a great sight because it taught me that nothing is impossible.

“Making the impossible possible” is Dubai’s motto and they definitely live up to it! I also found it so crazy how everything is funded by the Dubai government, and if they want something, they will do whatever it takes to make it happen no matter the cost. I definitely would not mind working for Nakheel Properties in the near future!

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If there was one motto I learned from this trip and will take with me back to the States, it would have to be “Open Doors. Open Minds.” This motto was taught to me by a great individual by the name of Nasif Kayed and what this motto means that no matter where you came from or what your background is, you are the same as everyone else, and nobody is better than you.

Mr. Nasif opened my eyes because before I heard him speak to our group, I knew very little about the people that lived in Dubai and the Middle East. The world is a mean place and people judge other people all the time over the little things, only because they know very little about the other group. That is not good by any means and only does harm to yourself. Before coming to Dubai, I had my uncertainties about some things, but after the trip to the mosque and dinner with Mr. Nasif, I feel at peace and calmer than ever being in this great city known as Dubai. I am so glad this happened on the first day of the trip because my whole perspective about the people and the lifestyle about Dubai has changed for the better, and I owe my thanks to Mr. Nasif. He is truly a remarkable individual and have impacted many people’s lives in a positive way.

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Dubai Dreaming

By Dubai

Dear Wanderers,

Only a few days to go, and I cannot contain my excitement. Between the exams, papers, presentations, and procrastination, I daydream of the places we will go, the attractions we will see, the food we will eat, and the people we will meet. While I struggle to fold my shirts just the right way so that all my clothes and shoes fit in my suitcase, I contemplate what I am most excited to see.

After reading the itinerary over 20 times and searching the internet for photos of the places I will see, I have fallen in love with the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Aside from its architectural grandeur and its intricate design, the mosque is a cultural and religious experience I am excited to take part in. The prospect of walking through its grand halls and admiring the paintings on the walls makes me even more restless.

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On a more educational note, I am extremely interested to learn about the Byblos Hospitality Group. With more than a handful of 4 to 5 star luxury hotels sprawled across the coast in Dubai alone, this hospitality group has risen quite fast within the industry since its start in 2010. My passion for business is intrigued by the little that I have read about the company so far. There is nothing more interesting to me than to really get to the bottom of how businesses go viral and what steps they take to keep themselves relevant, so this presentation is definitely something I’m looking forward to.

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I’ve been told countless times prior to this trip how lucky I am and what a great opportunity this is for me, and I must admit that I do feel quite lucky to be able to travel to Dubai at this exact moment in time. The despair our country and other countries across the globe are feeling due to recent events and acts of terror, not to mention the unfair persecution Muslims worldwide are facing due to the actions of a handful, push me to feel that these experiences will enhance my knowledge of the Muslim culture and religion, introduce me to a different lifestyle, and overall strengthen my global citizenship by tearing down the stereotypical lens through which I see the Middle Eastern world. Furthermore, in the hospitality industry it is vital to your success as a professional to demonstrate tolerance, understanding, and possess an open mind when it comes to others. This trip, aside from helping me develop an open mind, will also give me a chance to learn about some of the most successful hotels in one of the largest and most popular tourist destinations in the world and how they operate, knowledge that will help me advance myself in the industry.

Well, I’m off to finish packing so keep reading because in 2 days I will be air-bound and preparing to share photos and detailed accounts of my time in the most glamorous city in the world!

Your fellow Wanderluster,

Alexandria

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