I recently had the opportunity to travel to Dubai and Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to attend the Virtuoso Chairman’s Event. The UAE was established as a country in 1971 and is located in the southeast end of the Arabian Peninsula on the Persian Gulf.
Dubai has undergone a rapid transformation—from a desert located, pearl-diving culture, to one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Today, Dubai is a tourism, aviation, real estate, and financial services hub and has become a world-class cosmopolitan city.
The city has become famous for its skyscrapers and high-rise buildings, in particular the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa.
Dubai’s oil revenue accelerated the early development of the city, but its reserves are limited today. Less than 5% of their revenue comes from oil.
While they are famous for their “over the top” buildings and tourist attractions, the thing that most impressed me was the vision the city’s leaders had to invest their oil windfall in building their future.
Forbes Magazine said this about Dubai: “The recipe for success is not complex: rule of law, free trade, low taxes, business-friendly regulations, free movement of people and capital, no tolerance for corruption, physical safety, and security of property. That’s it.”
Dubai’s ruler was quoted to have said: “When the oil runs out will we be clapping or crying?” He wanted to invest the money in a way that they would be “clapping.” This is a stark contrast to some of their neighbors in the region who have squandered their oil revenue on terrorism and other things that will not build a future for their people.