The Covid-19 pandemic sent many of us working from our regular deskspace in an office back into our own homes, which has had its pluses and minuses. The commute is much easier, but the lack of a demarcation between home and office can lead to a sense that you're always on call and can sap creativity.
The pleasure of travelling on business is also likely to be off the cards for most of us for some time, but the reopening of hotels in the UAE at least offers the chance for a change of scenery – and a new background for those endless Zoom meetings.
Take Melia Desert Palm Dubai, for example. Few addresses in a city where most acreage is considered prime offer a vast, uncluttered lawn as the backdrop to a working day.
True, a polo-orientated resort is not ordinarily where you might think to base executives or stage an office pow wow, but in these unusual times the ability to host meetings and events on a pampered polo field is a socially-distanced selling point.
Despite a rural setting that includes 300-year-old olive trees, the location – beyond Dragon Mart on Al Awir Road – is close enough to the city to be convenient but far enough away to feel tranquil. Nearby main routes feed into DIFC and other business districts, and, of course, the Expo 2020 site, about 30 minutes drive.
The 160-acre estate, tucked away down a tree-lined private road, rightly invites the “hidden gem” label.
“Almost every day I meet someone who has never been to Melia Desert Palm Dubai, or Desert Palm Estate,” says general manager Nathalie Cockayne.
“They are always blown away by the beauty and tranquility of the location - far enough away to feel like you’ve left the hustle of Dubai behind, but effectively only 20 minutes from Dubai Mall.”
While certainly not a typical business pit-stop, proximity to Academic City, Dubai Design District and Dubai International Airport delivers education, fashion and aviation business.
Prior to the pandemic, the hotel had seen an increase in the ‘bleisure’ market, with international visitors combining a couple of days' work with a weekend of rest and recuperation, Ms Cockayne said.
“Plus, as we offer a good variety of meeting rooms, we see a positive trend of MICE business for small to medium size groups.”
The rural demeanour of the estate lends itself to corporates seeking recreational balance with their work, or events with families, especially during cooler months.
“We have a strong connection to government entities due to our location, close to various head offices for Dubai,” she adds.
For corporate road warriors, Melia Desert Palm presents a refreshing alternative to most branded properties.
Spacious rooms deliver a calming environment in which to work; such as the desk in our Polo Suite, enjoying natural light from huge windows overlooking the championship field and a panel of USB and other data sockets accessing virtual views.
Alternatively, you can set-up office on a sofa by the window or in fresh air at a patio table.
An LG widescreen TV and guest devices are supported by a Bose sound system and there’s refreshment via a mini bar and hot drinks-making area.
The suite (Dh1,062, based on a July 24 stay with breakfast) is essentially open plan but astutely organised so wardrobes shield a bathroom of modern fixtures, including standalone tub, two sinks and frosted glass rain shower and toilet.
It’s a short walk to a long exercise-conducive pool, flanked by loungers and outdoor seating for Epicure, a brasserie-style restaurant where a la carte breakfast is served, while gourmet sandwiches and wood-fired pizzas are among daytime and evening sustenance.
Steaks are the main calling, but not the limitation, of the open kitchen at signature restaurant Rare. Seafood is also a speciality.
Seating is inside or al fresco on an extensive terrace overlooking the polo field and the area is shared with RED bar, a venue with a casual dining menu and more of the polo memorabilia that decorates public areas.
For meetings, Melia’s Polo Rooms cater up to 300 guests – think formal receptions, product launches, corporate entertaining.
Equipment includes state-of-the-art audio-visual technology, such as ceiling-mounted LCD projectors and screens and nippy complimentary Wi-Fi. The larger space divides into five meeting rooms for lower key conferencing or there are several other spots for informal gatherings by arrangement, such as The Green Veranda, The Waterfall, The Orchard, The Argentinian Table or The Arabesque. Upping the scale, silver service galas can also be catered, for example company awards nights.
The hotel has a Style & Co men’s salon, while all can spend downtime in the Samana Spa or spacious Stables Fitness Centre, home to ample aerobic and resistance equipment.
Ultimately, though, Melia Desert Palm Dubai wins the most points for its stunning location.
“Being surrounded by greenery, without a crane in sight, is a unique experience for UAE nationals and expats,” Ms Cockayne adds.
The writer was a guest of the hotel