The Dubai Effect: Excellence Experienced.

Dear Brand,

Business Owner,


Prime Minister,




Dear Human being, if you want to deliver an excellent experience, this blog may give you the inspiration that you didn’t know you were looking for, but really, trust me, you need it.

The reality is as a world we need that inspiration, to not only survive, but thrive!

You can learn a LOT about excellence in experience from Dubai …


As H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum states in his book ‘My Vision: Challenges in the Race for Excellence’ :

“Dubai will never settle for anything less than first place”

I haven’t read the book yet, but having just returned from an outstanding trip to Dubai and being someone who works globally on an experiential basis, I am picking up this book, pronto. I believe there will be many valuable lessons to further my knowledge.

I can’t quite put into words the magic that Dubai delivered (I’m going to have a good go) but what I will say is that Dubai is a happy place, full of happy people that deliver happiness from the moment you step off the plane into the magnificent airport. Having travelled to many countries in my life I will say this, the day I flew back home, I felt as if I was leaving home. In one short week, Dubai welcomed me in all it’s beauty, with open arms and made me feel like a part of its family.

Travelling to Dubai during the Holy Month of Ramadan was a delight; we experienced even more culture, amazing spirit and hospitality and I believe a slightly less busy period. Ramadan is the PERFECT time to visit Dubai.

To set context for this blog, my expectation of service and experience with anything is very high.

In a world where (as a consumer) I have SO.MUCH.CHOICE, it is important to me that when something captures my attention, my mind, my heart, my soul, my everything, whatever that something is takes great care of me! Dubai took great care of me!

As a business owner, my standards for excellence in experience are crazy high. I believe that attention from anyone in today’s world of technological speed, choice and continuous expansion and growth is a privilege. If someone gives me their attention, I do my utmost take great care of it!

I am also someone who has experienced standards that fall way below par, this baffles me in today’s climate! When we have the freedom of choice to do anything and to go anywhere, experience matters more than anything because if one experience fails to deliver, then as consumers of freedom and choice, off we go to hunt out the next experience to appeal to our ever increasing standards.

I decided I wanted to explore four areas to give you a bit of insight into what made Dubai so very special and what lessons we can learn from it …

(I’ve highlighted the lessons in bold - If you’re a note taker, there are some real gems in here!)

1.) Hospitality/Travel Experience

2.) Tourism/Entertainment Experience

3.) Community/Collaboration Experience

4.) Future Thinking

Hospitality/Travel Experience

I travelled to Dubai with my partner Dean and we chose to stay at Emerald Palace Kempinski Dubai. This was super convenient for some strategy work I was doing with a client for the first day of our trip and we decided that we would stay at the same hotel for the entire visit.

Emerald Palace Kempinski is palatial in EVERY sense of the world.


Emerald Palace Kempinski

Stunning By Day, Astonishing By Night.

Our first impressions were WOW. We couldn’t pick our jaws up off the floor for the first couple of hours as we admired the opulence and extravagance and beauty of the high quality finish of every fixture and fitting. Everything had been created to the highest standard. Our welcome from every staff member was more than accommodating. Doors were held open. Luggage was taken to our room. We were greeted with a very friendly and attentive check-in process by a wonderfully human, helpful and happy member of the Emerald Palace team.

Lesson 1: If as a business or as a human being, you have an opportunity to over deliver and exceed expectations in this life - DO IT! It goes a very long way.

Emerald Palace over-delivered and exceeded expectation, BIG TIME!

Because the hotel was slightly less busy (with it being Ramadan) we were very fortunate to receive a complimentary upgrade to a bigger room with a terrace rather than a balcony. Having trawled the Trip Advisor reviews before-hand, I knew that this is something that the Palace had done for other guests previously (when they have had the room to be able to do this).

Sounds obvious and simple, right? The reality is, having worked with the travel and hospitality industry for years, that not many people offer this nowadays! Many hotels, airlines etc... believe that you get given what you pay for! I have absolutely no issue with this at all! But imagine our complete delight as a customer when Emerald Palace Kempinski upgraded us to what can only be described as a stunning ‘mini palace’ within a palace (complete with walk-in closet, bath tub bigger than most living rooms and a terrace with views (you can see from the Instagram post below) that provided memories to last a lifetime!) We were also greeted with a Golden Cake upon arrival in our room (to match the Golden Palatial decor) Very impressive!

What impact do you think this upgrade had on us? and do you think it is more likely that we will recommend Emerald Palace Kempinski to everyone that we speak to? ABSOLUTELY we will. That upgrade may have meant we got something more expensive than what we had originally paid for, but WOW we will tell more people about the hotel!

A big tick here for Emerald Palace and a also lesson to anyone no matter what business you work in; If you have the power to make someone feel even more special by your actions, DO IT! This is the kind of experience that people remember and tell people about not just weeks or months but years down the line.

Lesson 2: Make sure all of your people/staff have the same vision that you have to run your business to excellent standards. When you find those people, look after them very well. If you look after your people, they will look after your business and customers.

I believe that Emerald Palace Kempinski must look after their staff very well. In their pursuit for excellence, every staff member contributed to delivering their vision, meticulously. Each member of staff we came into contact with had a smile on their face and NOTHING was too much trouble. Upon arrival, we were introduced to our butler who gave us a tour of our room and informed us how she could help to make our stay even more exceptional!

Let me tell you, I am someone who is used to very high standards of service but never before have I been offered a service to this level. She offered us everything you could imagine, from running the bath and unpacking for us (which we politely declined, as this is something we thought we should do ourselves) to delivering us a daily ice bucket and newspaper, which were both welcomed in the evening after a hot day by the pool or on the beach. When the sun went down, the ice was there ready and waiting for us and we could spend a leisurely couple of hours having a drink on the terrace and overlooking the view. Those little things, MATTER.

The restaurant staff and the poolside staff were so unbelievably attentive and the concierge and Ladies In Red made the trip very special by making reservations for us in the various outstanding restaurants in the Palace. Our sun beds were laid out for us daily, with fresh ice-cold water delivered to us so we really had nothing to do but relax and enjoy our precious holiday time there.

When you work so hard, day in, day out, it is one of the most amazing luxuries to be able to take a few days away, in a place that removes the need for you to have to think about anything. Everything was so well thought out by the Palace and the staff carried out their vision to ensure that we felt completely relaxed and taken care of.

If you are a business owner, it is crucial that your staff know your vision and that they feel valued enough to carry out your vision with passion and enthusiasm.

In summary of our hotel experience, I could write an entire blog about Emerald Palace Kempinski. There were many WOW moments throughout the week (They even baked me a princess cake, that they usually make for children’s birthdays because they knew that I loved the look of them!) It tasted as good as it looked!


Princess Cakes

Not Just For The Children.

What I will say to summarise across all areas, food, hospitality, service, going above and beyond is that Emerald Palace took excellent, sprinkled it with more excellent and made excellence in every area possible. THAT is the kind of impression you want to be making as a business or as a human, right?

A huge thank you to everyone at the Palace, we will be back!

Tourism/Entertainment Experience

During our stay, we decided to book a few trips to experience Dubai outside of the Palace!

Lesson 3: Be organised, make the pre-experience an experience!

If you are a business or human providing services for another, make the process smooth and hassle free from the offset. The process of an experience beforehand is just as important as the experience itself AND it makes for calm happy customers who already have a positive experience with you, WIN WIN!

The experience of our excursions in Dubai actually started way back in the UK before we had even boarded the plane!

We found a really handy company called Get Your Guide and subsequently ended up booking all of our excursions through these guys! We we’re not disappointed, at all!

From moment of booking we were communicated with exceptionally well from the local providers in Dubai. We knew our pick-up and drop-off times prior to leaving the UK. We were sent e-mail communications with start times, clothing suggestions (we had booked a dessert trip), WhatsApp numbers for communication etc. I even had a phone call from one of the local offices confirming everything. A big tick in my eyes (in the world of digital, human interaction is a really nice touch! - bravo Dubai!)

We were also informed that we could download the app which was a godsend, all ‘digital tickets’ and instructions for each activity were in one place.

We chose a dessert safari, complete with camel ride, sand-boarding and 4X4 dessert sand dune safari! This entire excursion was fantastic (pics below) we created memories that will last a lifetime!

View this post on Instagram

Oh, go on then. Hello Colin the camel.

A post shared by Dean Johnson (@activrightbrain) on

We also chose to do a parasailing excursion, and the Dubai Fountain Show. Again, the organisation of both of these was excellent, we had our hands held from start to finish and out-of-this-world experiences for both!

I have to tell you, if you are booking the Dubai Fountains (and I HIGHLY recommend that you do), take tissues, a bucket load of them! It is beautiful and emotional and I found myself with tears streaming down my face as I watched the twinkling lights and fountain show from the water, on a boat, choreographed to stunning music. It was one of those moments, you can’t really put into words!

During our evening at the Fountain Show, based at The Dubai Mall (the largest mall in the world and one of the most impressive I have ever seen), we also stumbled upon a couple of other experiences that we hadn’t booked beforehand:

The Dubai Aquarium and a VR theme park called PVRK! We decided spontaneously to do these too during the evening! Both experiences were world-class.

Lesson 4: Deliver something that encourages spontaneity and good impulse decision-making.

You know those moments in business that get the pulse racing and the excitement flowing? (if you don’t then you should) those little ‘ooooo moments’ are the moments that set you apart from anyone else. Seek to deliver more of those, they create world-class experiences.

Dubai does this everywhere! Sometimes it’s nice not planning EVERYTHING! It’s good to have something shiny and exciting to attract you ‘in the moment’. This is something that Dubai really excels at! Around every corner there are experiences that are waiting to entice you in and give you an exceptional time!

Dubai delivers such a variety of WORLD CLASS experiences that it is easy to see why there is such a thriving tourism industry. When I can go from the best water and theme parks, to the dessert, to dining experiences, to traditional souks, boat trips, personal plane flights, ski-ing (yes ski-ing), to everything else in-between, Dubai makes everything seem possible and full of wonder and fun!

As people, as businesses, as countries, we should all aim to deliver that sense of wonder, continuously!

Community/Collaboration Experience

I believe that community and collaboration are the future of human culture, business, running countries and creating a world that is exciting, inclusive and caring for generations that come after us.

I want to touch on two things here that I believe Dubai (as a collective) does very well.

The first of these is Social Media.

I stumbled upon an account called Visit Dubai prior to heading out on our trip! (I was mesmerised by how they have created a global culture via Instagram). Visit.Dubai encourages visitors from all over the world to tag their account into their own personal experiences, videos and photos and then they feature some of their favourites within their feed that goes out to over 1.4 million people!

The impression that this gave me; Dubai welcomes everyone with open arms to not only experience its culture but to become a part of creating its digital story!

I really enjoy looking at this account now that we have returned home. It gives me a global perspective on Dubai, it opens me up to the views of others and shows me the UAE from many different perspectives, not just the perspective of Dubai.

Lesson 5: Welcoming (and showcasing/highlighting) the opinion of others is important.

It shows you as an open human, business, country (whichever is relevant to you) who is willing to deviate from your own perspective, and see things from the perspective of another. This is both humbling, inviting and inclusive. We should all seek to be more that way.

It’s not only digitally that Dubai creates an inclusive global community, everywhere I turned, colourful cultures, wonderful people, traditions and new ideas were bursting from the seams! Dubai isn’t only proud to be who it is, but it openly invites people from all walks of life, from all parts of the globe to be a part of and help to create the rich tapestry of an ever-evolving developing city.

This leads me to the second thing Dubai does exceptionally well when it comes to community and collaboration.

It rose from a podcast I listened to on the plane on the way home, The Emirates Podcast.

I listened to an episode that Interviews Dr Aisha Bin Bishr - Director General of Smart Dubai. I was so inspired listening to this incredible lady speak about Dubai and the goals that the country has to create a happy city of happy experiences for tourists, residents, business people and anyone who visits Dubai. Everyone is a part of the Dubai community, not just it’s residents.

Dubai encourages a global community (and a happy one at that) not only digitally, but also physically. It recognises that a ‘we approach’ as a country is far better than a ‘me approach’. Dubai invites anyone from anywhere in the world to be a part of its development. Anyone has the opportunity to help build a future, opportunity and be a part of the excitement in Dubai.

We could all do well to learn from this.

Lesson 6: Together we can achieve more, embrace every human, globally.

Many humans, businesses, countries etc … would rather work in opposition than together. This limits human potential. I ask you to open your mind to others. it is in learning through others and embracing others and working together that we can realise the impossible and achieve the incredible.

If you are still with me and reading this, I thank you. I know this is a long piece, but i couldn’t do this justice in just a few short words. There were so many lessons in experience from Dubai and I wanted you to soak it all up and experience it as much as possible through my thoughts and pictures. Hopefully it is giving you some food for thought to help you create more meaningful and excellent experiences by giving you a ‘Dubai Mindset’.

Future Thinking

So finally we come to future thinking. To repeat the wise words of H. H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum ‘Dubai will never settle for anything less than first place’

It is easy for anyone to assume or suggest that a country who adopts this mindset is only about itself and that once it is ‘The Best’ it stops there; job done!

FAR FROM IT … and you are completely mistaken if you think Dubai is only about being a winner now. Dubai sets a global example of designing the future.


Museum Of The Future.

It looks so beautiful,

Dubai is creating, everywhere. Everywhere you look there are new innovations in tourism, technology, innovation and experience. Dubai is about developing something so precious for the future that it raises the bar for excellence, globally. So when Dubai wont settle for anything less than first place, it encourages us all to be better, to all want to be better and to create something for many more tomorrows when we are long gone from this earth. That in itself shows that Dubai is far greater than all of the riches that it has. It wants to leave a legacy. A global footprint for learning, for development, for promise of a better tomorrow. This kind of mindset is exactly the kind of mindset that inspires us to be better humans, businesses, countries etc.

Lesson 7: Be a better human, try new things, innovate, share ideas, never settle for less than first place in your own mind.

By bettering yourself, you encourage others to do the same and in doing this we raise the standard not just for a better experience, but for a better world.

Dubai is in the process of developing the most incredible 173 day long experience where it invites the whole world to be its guest, enter Expo2020.

Expo2020 shares a vision of a ‘World without borders - explore 192 countries- no passport needed’.


I can’t begin to tell you how excited the thought of visiting Expo2020 makes me. On it’s website it describes this:

“Expo 2020 Dubai will host the world for 173 days, each one brimming with new experiences. It’ll be a time to create, collaborate and innovate. And it’s going to be fun. We’re talking eye-catching, mind-bending, taste bud-tickling, grin-inducing, good-weird, did-that-really-just-happen fun. Come along, or spend a lifetime telling less interesting stories”

You can learn more here

I want to be a part of that story. I imagine you may now want to be a part of that story and Dubai wants us, the entire world, to be a part of creating that story. I can only begin to imagine the excellence that is going to go into the continuing development of this. It will be out-of-this-world, guaranteed.

So that’s it, but to summarise …..

I got more than business and an out-of-this-world holiday, I got spirit …

The spirit of Dubai allows its visitors to be bold! If you are given an environment to experience the astonishing and to think big (because everything around you thinks big and gives you those jaw dropping moments), you can be sure you’ll leave Dubai being inspired and ready to break through the self -imposed limitations that we so frequently put on ourselves!

Dubai gives lessons in life, in business, in happiness and in collaboration … If you haven’t experienced it yet, I urge you to go, tomorrow!

I do wonder if one day the example that Dubai sets will become a verb. We have become so familiar with the term ‘Google It’ I wonder if ‘Dubai It’ will become a phrase that we globally use to refer to raising standards of excellence in experience! I can tell you now, It deserves it!

Dubai is a global city, a window on the world where literally anything is possible.

Where anything is possible, everything is achievable and THAT is the mindset that delivers happiness and a level of experience that I have yet to sample anywhere else on this planet that I have travelled so far! This is the level of excellence we should be striving for as humans, as businesses, as brands, as countries etc.

We have a responsibility, a challenge and the opportunity of a lifetime to make a better world …

The bar of example has been set exceptionally high … Thank you Dubai.



Delivered an unforgettable experience!