Adrian Murphy  on Friday, May 23, 2008

It has been a long time coming – five years in the building – but finally all eyes are on The World.

Reclamation of Nakheel’s archipelago of 300 islands was completed earlier this year. Now, it is the turn of some of the leading developers to build their finest resorts off the coast of Dubai.

Sixty per cent of the islands have been sold, but only a handful of owners have made their future plans public. Work on these is due to begin over the summer.

But what has been released to the public – in the form of lavish promotional material and fantastic artists’ impressions – have excited holiday companies around the world.

Fay Fernandes, North Africa and Middle East product manager for Kuoni Travel, one of the world’s leading travel organisations, said The World would offer her customers greater opportunities. “As with all projects in Dubai, which are some of the most interesting in the world, we are watching closely to see what’s going to happen,” she said.

The World – as with The Palm Jumeirah – has been the focus of frenzied speculation since it was first announced. Celebrities such as Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, rocker Rod Stewart and sports star Michael Schumacher have all been linked to a specific island – and many of the rumours have since been quashed.

As for the remaining islands, Nakheel, which has hand-picked the individual island developers, said it was in discussion with potential investors, but has no deadline for when all the islands will be sold.

Of the islands that have been sold, only seven developers have announced their intentions, with the remainder finalising plans for their little piece of the planet.

The first investors to unveil their proposal was a consortium of four Irish businessmen – John O’Dolan, Noel Connellan, Ray Norton and Andrew Brett, who bought Ireland for Dh142 million in March last year.

John O’Dolan, of O’Dolan International, said the resort, named Ireland in the Sun, was a great opportunity to share in Dubai’s success. He has been coming to Dubai for the past five years and told Emirates Business he wanted to share in its success.

“We launched the properties in May last year and have had a tremendous response,” he said.

“Ireland in the Sun will have 121 properties, including thatch cottages, of which 50 per cent have already been sold. Construction is expected to start in the next six months.”

Nakheel itself is developing a resort called Coral Islands, a collection of 20 islands off the coast of Canada, with 60 villas, joined together by bridges, to make one of the largest resorts.

Hamza Mustafa, Nakheel’s Managing Director of The World, said he was impressed by the plans for the islands already bought.

“Ultimately, The World will offer rare and exclusive luxury experiences to residents and visitors – resorts, spas and leisure facilities.

“Progress is well under way,” he said. “We have started handing over islands to The World’s owners who have received final approval on their concepts.

“I am also particularly delighted by recent announcements from our elite group of island owners.” He said 180 of The World’s 300 islands have been sold. He estimated that, when complete in 2017, The World would welcome 120,000 residents and tourists. The latest announcement came from Oqyana World First, which will develop Australia and New Zealand into a 22-island resort with snorkelling and scuba centres. Dr Wadad Al Suwayeh, Chief Executive of Oqyana World First, this week announced Reef Lagoon, and said work would start this summer.

“Oqyana World First is the first and largest of all developers on The World,” he said. “In addition to a world-class retail hub, luxury hotel apartments and villas, Oqyana World First will also feature a waterfront promenade.” Developers such as European aristocrat Baron Jean van Gysel de Meise, who has bought Greece, have said it was the location of The World that tempted him to invest Dh624m.

“It’s an ideal location if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of Dubai,” he said.

“I am building a chain of boutique hotels and creating a lifestyle and The World is the best place to do this.”

Construction on V… Greece, as the Island will be known, will begin in January next year and is scheduled for completion late 2010.

The development includes a boutique hotel with 65 “living spaces”.

De Maise has also launched a programme that allows investors to buy into the project and use it for two months a year then reap 50 per cent of the property’s gross income for the remaining 10 months.

Other developments include proposals by Bin Hu, director of real estate developer Zhongzhou International Holding Group, who bought the island of Shanghai for Dh102.7m.

Preliminary plans for the island splits it into two – the first with a luxury hotel resort and the second with palace-style villas.

On May 20, Venture Capital Bank, a Bahrain-based investment bank bought an island in northern Asia for Dh1.5m with 113 villas planned.

And Dubai Multi Commodities Centre is set to establish a 65,000 square foot pearling and marine entertainment centre.

It will be located on an island in the Antarctica region of The World.


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