Thursday, 26 November 2009

A view - Lisa Strotts

IT was a bubble waiting to burst. For all the glitz and glamour, something about Dubai made me feel distinctly uncomfortable.

When I first visited four years ago Dubai was already a good few years into its frenzy of construction.

The city seemed to me no more than a dusty building site - it screamed environmental disaster.

Everywhere luxury hotels, apartment complexes and more were being thrown up with gay abandon.

As we toured one concrete and glass monstrosity after another I questioned who would fill the thousands of hotel beds.

The scale of the construction came crashing home to me, literally, as I took a breather from a late party at the luxury One & Only Royal Mirage Hotel.

It was 3am and as I strolled down to the beach the sound of the sea was drowned out by hammering.

Guests paying thousands of pounds were trying to sleep as workers toiled away building a hotel next door.

Millions of Brits WERE enjoying holidays in Dubai - drawn by the attainable luxury promoted by hotels including the iconic sail-shaped seven-star Burj Al Arab hotel.

Scorching weather was a given, hotel standards blew traditional Med resorts out of the water - if you didn't fancy any culture or natural wonder it was a great bet.

But as time went on and tourist numbers increased the nagging feeling kept returning. Why, four years after I first saw man-made archipelago The World, was it unfinished and unsold?

Deals to hotels previously thousands of pounds a night began arriving in my inbox.Dubai was on sale.

With the credit crunch, visitor numbers plummeted.

Officially, Brit visitors are down four per cent this year - unofficially, travel experts say it is nearer 15 per cent.

The famous QE2 ocean liner retired last year by Cunard, supposed to become a floating luxury hotel, may end up on the scrap heap.

Plans for Dubai versions of four American theme parks are now on ice.

The practice of pumping salt back into the sea from desalination plants has allegedly all but destroyed aquatic life close to shore.

Apart from sunshine and expensive shops, I can't see a reason to visit Dubai and many other destinations offer that - and more.

Until Dubai offers more than just ostentatious hotels with views of cranes its troubles could get a LOT worse.