Dubai's World Islands developer aims for 2026 finish after delays

Interest in day trips on the rise as revellers look to escape the city

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The developer of a $5 billion luxury project on Dubai’s World Islands has said the project will be completed by 2026.

The Kleindienst Group, which is behind The Heart of Europe, said the first phase of the project will be completed by the end of this year and will include the handover of almost 50 floating “seahorse” villas.

The entire development includes palaces with private beaches, hundreds of smaller villas and apartments, hotels, as well as floating “seahorse” villas on the six-island cluster, situated four kilometres off the Dubai coast.

The project has been much delayed over the years, not least due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

We had 1,370 guests last Saturday alone. We were almost overwhelmed with the challenge of having so many people on one day on the island
Josef Kleindienst, Kleindienst Group

However, the man overseeing the project is confident an actual end date is in sight, after the first property on the project, the Cote d'Azur Monaco Hotel, opened to the public at the start of the year.

“We had several challenges that led to delays but thankfully we are through and starting to see openings,” said Josef Kleindienst, chairman of the Kleindienst Group.

“We had the soft opening of our first hotel at the start of the year and we have more than 70 properties currently under construction.

“The first phase of those will be made available to tourists by the end of the year. Everything will be completed by 2026.”

Mr Kleindienst, speaking on the closing day of the Arabian Travel Market, which was held at Dubai World Trade Centre this week, declined to say how much the floating villas were likely to cost.

However, a quick glance on shows the floating seahorse villas on sale for a little less than Dh22 million each.

The project, once completed, will also hold 16 hotels as well as “palaces” with private beach access.

“We have a lot of demand for the floating villas,” he said.

“It’s a unique product and people are always interested in something new.”

He said 48 of the floating villas will be handed over by the end of this year.

So far, the company has sold more than 70 of the floating villas, with most buyers coming from Saudi Arabia, followed by Emiratis and UAE residents, according to Mr Kleindienst.

He was confident the project would prove a success, particularly with the local market.

“It will be popular with people who live here because they can just walk across the street with their luggage and check in,” he said.

“It means you can have that holiday experience without having to go the airport and experiencing the hassle that comes with flying.

“We are the perfect location for a staycation as it will be easy to get away from the city and come here.”

Each of the hotels that will be built on the project will have a different theme, he added, pointing to the party vibe of the recently opened Cote d'Azur Monaco Hotel, which is for adults only.

The project has attracted its fair share of scepticism over the years, with many wondering if it would ever open.

However, Mr Kleindienst said the hotel alone was already attracting huge numbers at weekends, proving there is an appetite.

“We had 1,370 guests last Saturday alone,” he said.

“We were almost overwhelmed with the challenge of having so many people on one day on the island.”

The project has certainly attracted its fair share of attention since it was first announced in 2003, before being handed over to the developers in 2008.

It attracted publicity in 2018 when it was reported that one of the floating villas had sunk into the sea, near the Burj Al Arab.

However, Mr Kleindienst insisted it was an events platform that had fallen into the sea.

The same year saw US actress Lindsay Lohan unveiling plans on Instagram to build a themed resort, Lindsayland, at the World Islands.

The post received more than 20,000 likes before being deleted.

Another jewel in Dubai's crown?

Property experts, however, have said it had the potential to be another jewel in Dubai’s crown.

“Floating villas would bring a unique and luxurious option to Dubai’s property offering,” said Wassim Abdallah, head of off-plan and investments with real estate firm Better Homes.

“Such innovative and exclusive offerings often attract high-net-worth individuals and investors seeking distinctive and prestigious properties.

“There is always high demand for sea facing property in Dubai, whether it’s a villa or an apartment, even more so if it’s located on the island.”

The delays in the project's completion will have an impact, he said, but not necessarily an overly negative one.

“It’s true that delays have slightly reduced the interest of clients in the local market but there was always high demand from international clients,” he said.

“They are amazed by the uniqueness and are prepared to wait in order to be part of it.”

Simon Baker, managing director with Haus & Haus Real Estate, suggested the project would continue to create excitement, but a cautious approach would be wise given the delays involved so far.

“When any innovative or ultra-modern new development launches in Dubai, it causes a ripple of excitement and grabs the interest of global buyers,” he said

“However, from an insider’s point of view it’s always better to wait and see before speculating too much on a long-delayed project.

“There’s always an appetite for island destinations — not just in Dubai but internationally. They offer a sense of exclusivity and well-being that’s hard to beat.”

Key interest was likely to come from markets including Russia, China, India, the UK and throughout Europe, he added.

Updated: May 08, 2023, 8:43 AM