Testing time for island life

Middle East developers have grasped marketing their products to prospective buyers overseas remarkably well.

COMMENT, Business

If there's one thing that Middle East developers seem to have grasped remarkably well, then it's marketing their products to prospective buyers overseas.

Nakheel is a good example. Even before dredging had begun on Palm Jumeirah, anyone with just the slightest awareness of Dubai associated it with a place where footballer David Beckham had bought a villa.

The same can be said for The World, probably the company's most ambitious project to date.

Among the clutch of celebrities rumoured to have bought one of the 300 islands are the couple that grace the front page of almost every gossip magazine, every week - Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

Much fanfare also surrounded the occasion a couple of years ago when Sir Richard Branson was drafted in to plant a Union Jack on Great Britain - inevitably sparking speculation that he had bought the island.

Anyone who has visited London recently wouldn't have failed to notice the extent to which UAE marketing budgets are reaching.

Billboards, taxis and tube trains are adorned with advertisements selling a lifestyle in the region, and usually by the waterfront. Many of the proposed projects are yet to find a plot of land to be built on, let alone be finished.

In our interview this week, Haydar Abdul Reda Mashhadi, general manager of Al Madar Group makes the point that the majority of developers are investing more time and money on lavish marketing campaigns than they are in ensuring their projects are completed on time and to good quality.

He said that the more emphasis there is on completion and quality, the more the product will actually market itself.

It's just as well Nakheel is adopting a rigorous process in vetting sub-developers for the remaining half of The World.

Those developers will need to be well-versed with the challenges of developing an island among many, and 4km away from the shoreline. Island owners will also be expected to sort out electricity, gas, water and sewerage.

The attributes of the project's success will therefore need to go well beyond celebrities. And until that happens, it's unlikely that honeymooners will be forgoing the tranquility of the Maldives for The World.

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