New resorts will bolster Middle East helo market

 - March 22, 2007, 8:27 AM

Helicopters fill the make-believe future skies in Disney World’s Tomorrowland, but in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates real rotorcraft are an integral part of the plans of high-end hotel and resort projects that are so huge they would likely boggle the fertile mind of Walt himself, if he were still alive. At the top of the heap is a multi-island resort called “The World” (see box), which its developer said has a potential market for no less than 200 helicopters.

But the helicopter market in the United Arab Emirates also includes other sectors. “Both owned and chartered executive transport models will be needed to support The World, but the Emirates is a growth market in many sectors,” Abdulla Abulhoul, managing director of exhibition organizer Mediac, told AIN. “Public service and heavy-lifting machines have their place as well. For example, we have identified a requirement for wrecked automobiles to be moved from our highways after accidents and for skyscrapers to be ‘topped off’ with air conditioners and communications equipment.”

The World resort joins a growing list of landmark projects in Dubai that have been designed with helicopter traffic in mind. Helipads have been integrated into the construction of futuristic high-rise hotels such as the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Burj Al Arab, which in shape resembles the sail of an Arabian dhow and which, at 1,053 feet tall, approaches the height of the Empire State Building.

Two more ambitious offshore programs that will depend on helicopter support are also well under way. Two huge man-made islands, known as The Palms, are being built along the Dubai coastline. Launched in May 2002, the project will create a large number of residential, leisure and entertainment areas while, incidentally, increasing Dubai’s shoreline by 74 miles.

The islands, known as the Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali, have each been designed to resemble a palm tree with a trunk, a crown with 17 fronds and a surrounding crescent island, which acts as a breakwater with the Persian Gulf. Together, the islands will support 60 luxury hotels, 4,000 residential villas, 1,000 water homes and 5,000 shoreline apartments, as well as marinas, water theme parks, restaurants, shopping malls, sports facilities, health spas, cinemas and diving sites. Helipads will be built alongside several of the hotels.

The smaller (9.6 square miles) Palm Jumeirah has been designed as a primarily residential and relaxation area. Reclamation of the island itself is already complete (nearly three billion cubic feet of land was dredged from the approach channel to the Jebel Ali port) and the infrastructure, now under construction, is expected to be in place by early 2006.

The Jumeirah’s cousin–known as the Palm Jebel Ali–is intended as more of an entertainment resort. A full 50 percent larger than the Jumeirah, it will feature six marinas, a “Sea Village,” a water theme park and water homes (built on stilts between the “fronds” and the “crescent”). Construction here began in October 2002 and is expected to be complete by the end of 2007.

The Palm project took four years to plan and involved what the developers call “exhaustive” feasibility studies, to ensure that the islands do not damage the environment. Bridges, some as long as a thousand feet, will link them to each other and the mainland. But helicopters, once again, are intended to be integral to the islands’ success.

Those interested in reaching the UAE customer base might consider attending just one more exhibition this year, in Dubai, from December 6 to 9. The first International Helicopter Technology & Operations Exhibition, expected to alternate with the much larger Dubai airshow, is expected to attract a lot of high fliers.   

It’s a Small World After All

“The World,” a 60-million-square-foot multi-millionaires’ playground, is currently under construction three miles off the coast of Dubai, in the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. When complete in 2008, it will offer private retreats on 300 islands of varying sizes, islands that are shaped and positioned to resemble individual countries on a recognizable “map” of the world. Larger land masses, such as the U.S., Africa and Russia, are split into islands named after major regions or cities such as New England, Cape Town or St. Petersburg (see photo at left).

The huge development, taking up 11 square miles of ocean and offering 10 million square feet of beach, will be, according to Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, chairman of developer the Nakheel Corporation, “the most exclusive and private water retreat available in Dubai. It will provide a unique haven for investors looking for exclusive and world-class real-estate opportunities.”

Protective breakwaters will surround and protect the islands. Land reclamation from the seabed started late last year, and in a patriotic touch, the island representing the UAE was the first to emerge from the sea. The islands cost between $6.3 million (Dhs23 million) and $36.7 million (Dhs135 million). “Ireland” has apparently been sold to a Dutch entrepreneur for $13.3 million, and Nakheel director Wahid Attalla told AIN that to date Great Britain, Australia and “most of southern Africa” have also been snapped up. He refused to reveal the identity of any clients, only saying that Britain has been bought by a Briton. (Rod Stewart has denied press reports that it is him.) Since the islands are entirely self-contained, new owners can start building their own residences–the purchase price includes only the real-estate–as soon as individual ones are declared complete.

Since bridges or causeways are not part of The World plan, canals and lakes will both separate and link the islands. Boats will be the main means of access within the resort: however, for emergency use, each of the retreats will be required by law to have a helipad. Owners are likely to take advantage of this by either buying or chartering helicopters to make the 20-minute trip between their island homes and the international airport.