x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

World first: Lebanon set to open

The World Island Beach Club, the first project on Dubai's landmark World islands, is poised to launch within weeks.

The World Island Beach Club on the island of Lebanon.
The World Island Beach Club on the island of Lebanon.

DUBAI // It is on a desert island miles out to sea, in an uninhabited archipelago, with no easily available source of water or electricity.

Yet when it opens - and sources say that will happen within weeks - the first project on Dubai's landmark World project promises to be a haven of yachts and cabanas.

Named the World Island Beach Club, and located on the World's Lebanon island, it will have an exclusive membership plan for yacht owners and be populated by beachfront cabanas that can be rented out for the day.

While the Lebanon resort would be the World's first completed project, work has also started on the six-island Heart of Europe project by Kleindienst Group.

The Lebanon island is about 3 kilometres from the coast of Dubai, as the crow flies, though the distance often works out greater given the need to navigate around many other islands in the development.

The journey can take 20 minutes to an hour, depending on the means of transport.

The resort is owned by the Indian entrepreneur Wakil Admed Azmi, who was an early investor in the World in 2008.

"We are very much encouraged by this," Ali Rashid Lootah, chairman of Nakheel, the World's master developer, said in an interview last week. "This will also encourage other people to bring forward their development plans."

The World, which is believed to have cost Dh51.4 billion to build, covers a huge area: about six by nine kilometres on 300 islands.

About 70 per cent of the islands have been sold, but many investors have been stalled by the demanding infrastructure requirements.

Treated water must be supplied by boat and electricity produced by generators. In addition, Nakheel does not allow effluent to be released into the water around the islands, even irrigation water.

Making these sort of arrangements was prohibitive for many investors, said Ian Albert, regional director of the property brokers Colliers International.

"People will be watching this closely," he said. "A resort on the World could do well and could be a unique selling point. That could encourage other investors.

"The World is one of those developments that everyone wants to see happen. Ultimately, these are islands off the shore of Dubai.

"At some point, the market will catch up and it will become financially attractive for people to go out and reinvest in them. As with all things, it will come right in time.

"But at the moment we seem to be struggling on a global basis from one crisis to another. So when that time will be, who knows?"

mcroucher@thenational.ae