Dubai enlightens regional doldrums

Emirate keeps the Gulf pumping after posting huge increase in visitor numbers for 2002.

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By  John Irish Published  March 6, 2003

The United Nations may be busily discussing the fate of Iraq over the next few days, but the emirate of Dubai is proving to be the golden jewel in the Arabian Peninsula, after a World Tourism Organisation (WTO) report published on March 05 registered an increase of over 30% on arrivals to the emirate in 2002 over the previous year.

The WTO document confirmed figures released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing and put Dubai ahead of popular tourism destinations such as France, China and Turkey in terms of visitor inflow.

2002 saw Dubai’s number of hotel guests exceed 4.75 million, which was an increase of over 31% on 2001, while the number of hotels increased from 264 to 272. Hotel occupancy also increased by 12% to 73%, as opposed to 61% in 2001. The emirate attracted the largest proportion of tourists from neighbouring Saudi Arabia, with 454,502 visitors, highlighting the increased importance in intra-Arab tourism. Despite numerous warnings from the Foreign Office against travelling to the region, British tourists were undeterred, following Saudi Arabia with just under 450,000 visitors.

“An effectively formulated marketing plan was designed in co-operation with the public and private sectors in Dubai. Joint media and advertising campaigns were also carried out,” said Khalid A. bin Sulayem, director general of the DCTM. “The objective has been to convince the global perception that in Dubai, it is business as usual, by giving a correct picture of the emirate and UAE, highlighting the safety as well as on-going developments in the country.”

The DCTM’s figures are particularly surprising considering that many tourist destinations have not been able to recover from the setbacks of September 11, 2001, other terrorist attacks and the uncertainty in the Gulf.

“This is a great accomplishment for the emirate. Dubai with its focused and well planned marketing strategies both regional as well as international, has emerged triumphant, successfully defying the world wide slump,” added Sulayem.

Although regional tensions are omnipresent, Sulayem claims that Dubai’s success lies in the fact that it still remains one of the safest places in the world, with state-of-the art infrastructure, and facilities as well as cultural and leisure activities that are difficult to match anywhere else in the world.

The WTO’s endorsement and the Dubai tourism figures follow a recent report estimating that over US $15 billion will be invested in up to 220 hotel projects throughout the Gulf, Levant and Egypt over the next few years. The report expects Dubai to add a further 120 luxury hotels to its portfolio during the coming five years, with as many as 98 being part of the Palm Development Project, which should be completed by 2006.

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