Castles in the air

Dubai seemingly has the ability to create castles in the air — and then to transform them into hard-core commercially viable realities.

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By  Eudore Chand Published  November 27, 2003

|~||~||~|Who would have thought that it was possible to hew out the world’s largest man-made port, or to build the world’s first super-luxury seven-star hotel in a city reclaimed from the desert. Or to create Palm Islands or the World or Burj Dubai or an Alpine ski resort in 45+ degree climate? It is not that you cannot build them. That bit, although it is not easy, merely requires money and expertise. The real test of the project is how it performs economically.

There are always those who have doubts every time a seemingly crazy idea is dreamt up — but then, these ideas are not just castles in the air. They are firmly grounded in reality. Dubai does its homework well. It does not build modern wonders of the world out of air — projects like the US $5.7 billion Dubailand are founded on concrete facts and achievable assumptions.

Dubai claims to sit astride the business-ways of the East and the West. It has a secure environment with a well-developed tourism infrastructure catering to all budgets, an almost year-round festival with fantastic price-busters and an image the world over as the City of Gold.

The emirate calculates that 10% of the 700 million global tourists come to the Middle East. The region itself generates 35 million outbound tourists a year. If there were suitable facilities available right here in Dubai, could the emirate not attract just 15 million of the 105 million tourists that enter and exit the region every year?

The seemingly impossible Dubailand is what the emirate expects to deliver the tourists it needs. Dubai’s dreams may seem impossible when taken in isolation, but each is a separate part of a grand design to transform the Emirate into a global tourism, lifestyle and business centre by the year 2010.

The Emirate is spending billions of dollars on Emirates airline fleet expansion and on expanding and upgrading Dubai International Airport to handle 60 million passengers a year. This is only just short of the handling capacity of London Heathrow; one of the worlds busiest airports.

The government has committed major investments in other government-backed waterfront projects. Already a regional exhibitions centre, Dubai spent US $270 million in building associated conventions facilities that have brought it a successful World Bank Group and IMF annual meeting — the first in the Arab world.

Dubai has forged a close relationship with its private sector, which has manifested itself in the rapid growth of the city’s hospitality sector along Sheikh Zayed Road and the Jumeirah beach strip.

On the business and lifestyle side, Dubai has the likes of Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and is building further projects such as Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Healthcare City and Academic City.

These various developments are expected to come together from 2006 onwards to create a Dubai, which, by 2010, will have 15 million tourists a year. Tourism will then contribute 20% to gross domestic product.

What could stop the building? A halt in the growth of both tourist traffic and population that persists for a couple of years might put a damper on the party. If a Palm Island sinks into the sea, more rocks to build it up will be called for.
There is not much that is going to stop this dash for development because it has to work. The Emirate has to have something to drive its wealth machine when the oil dries up.||**||

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