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An oasis of music in the desert

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One of the most unusual boutique hotels in Dubai needed to stand out from its skyscraper neighbours with its design and ambience…

Creating a distinctive sound for an established hotel group with a well-rooted brand identity is a challenge in itself, but using music to build a new brand from scratch is a different story altogether. As anyone who works in the creative sector will know, constraints and ground rules can make the job easier. But working to an open brief, with no established route to follow, can be like climbing a mountain without a rope: a little intimidating and a bit risky, but hugely exciting and more than worth it when you reach the top.

This was the opportunity we had with Desert Palm. One of the most unusual boutique hotels in Dubai (and not solely unusual because it is a boutique hotel in Dubai), it’s a 38-bedroom pocket of understated luxe that flies in the face of the city’s customary high-rise flamboyance. Set on 160-acre polo estate, it has been the host venue for some of the world’s biggest tournaments over the years, and acquired a stellar reputation for its subtle Arabic glamour, exceptional service and rare-for-Dubai peaceful green surroundings. Although it is set just 20 minutes from the hyperactivity of downtown, it really is an oasis in the desert.

Until recently, Desert Palm was part of an international hotel group, but in 2017, it made the move to go it alone as an entirely independent brand. This demanded the development of a new and distinct identity – one that held equal appeal to its wide-ranging clientele of international luxury travellers, Dubai denizens looking for an escape from the city, and near neighbours who come here to watch games, eat in the two restaurants, hang out in the bars, and generally treat the hotel as a social hub.

The Desert Palm team had embarked on a steady programme of brand reinvention that set out to retain this audience, but which would also broaden its appeal to a new tranche of discerning international guests. They asked us to create an engaging, cosmopolitan soundscape that would add vibrancy and uplift to the atmosphere, with mood-adjusted channels for the hotel’s spa, lobby and three F&B outlets – each one taking into account the ambience, design and daily rhythms of the space.

With no existing brand guidelines to start from, effective identity creation has to begin on the ground. So, late last summer, Music Concierge’s Dubai consultants checked into Desert Palm to soak up the atmosphere, explore everything the hotel had to offer, talk in detail with the team, and mentally map the guest experience hour by hour and step by step. Living the Desert Palm lifestyle through the guest’s perspective gave us the first spark of inspiration, and soon the tracks began to flow together.

By September – just in time for the kick-off of Desert Palm’s high season in November – the soundtrack was finished, Music Concierge had reached the mountaintop, and Desert Palm not only looked different to every other hotel in and around Dubai, it sounded it, too.