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National Day report 2004 - A destination in itself

posted on 02/12/2004: 1543 views

Wherever you go in the UAE, there are clear signs tourism is a major force in the country's quest to reduce its dependence on oil. Dubai, for one, has adopted an aggressive approach and has succeeded in making itself a world-class tourist destination. Hot on its heels are Al Ain and Sharjah, which are rapidly gathering pace with strong campaigns designed to complement Dubai.

Tourism in these emirates received a boost with the creation of official organisations that, in turn, invited the private sector to adopt a more orchestrated approach. These cities are focusing on attractions such as heritage, architecture and their landscape.

The growing focus on tourism would not have been possible without huge investment and a top-class infrastructure. Everything from amusement parks to tree-planting projects have been created to make the country more attractive, while the amount of homes and hotel rooms are also expanding as a result of real estate projects. Archaeological sites and museums provide an extra dimension.

Tourism promotion

Tourism promotion, over the past few years, has not only improved the image of the UAE but has also fed into its economic activities, education system, public services and even public attitudes. Dubai's tourism industry generates $1.9 billion (about Dh6.99 billion) a year.

Dubai has emerged as the hub of the country's tourism. Massive investment in infrastructure and nurturing has seen the emirate transformed into a major regional centre for trade, tourism and business. It also has one of the world's most highly praised models of multiculturalism.

The construction of The Palm and The World have already increased Dubai's international attraction as a tourist destination and the momentum will grow with the International City, Festival City, Dubailand, Healthcare City, Aid City, the world's tallest building, and the world's biggest shopping mall.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) and its 90 co-participants recently showcased the emirate's amenities and facilities to decision-makers and visitors from across the world at the World Travel Market in London. It was the department's 15th consecutive appearance.

The number of cruise ships docking at Dubai ports has also increased. According to Khalid Ahmad Bin Sulayem, Director-General of the DTCM, visits from cruise ships have been playing a crucial role in the overall growth and development of the tourism industry.

Big boost

Cruise ships with more than 10,000 guests are scheduled to visit Dubai before the end of the year. The city is expecting to get a big boost from the arrival of more than 13,000 visitors from 15 cruises in 2005.

Dubai International Airport has seen massive development and several new facilities are planned, including the construction of Terminal 3 and two concourses (all of which will be exclusive to Emirates airline), and a mega cargo terminal. Work on the second phase of a $4.1-billion (about Dh15 billion) expansion project started last year.

The expansion, scheduled for completion in 2006, will see one of the world's most admired airports handle 70 million passengers a year, up from the 18 million passengers that passed through it in 2003.

Huraiz Al Mur Bin Huraiz, Communications Manager at Dubai Department of Civil Aviation, says the airport is projected to handle 36 million tourists and passengers by the year 2006, and 60 million by the year 2010. The DTCM reported in August that the tourism industry has maintained outstanding growth; it posted a 49.4 per cent increase in hotel revenues and a 9.4 per cent increase in hotel guests in the first half of 2004, compared with the corresponding period last year.

The city has 372 hotels and hotel apartments, and revenues have recorded staggering growth and were more than Dh3 billion in the first half of 2004. This represents an increase of about Dh1 billion compared with the first half of 2003.

The total number of guests staying during January to June was 7,662,308 as opposed to 5,584,850 during the same period last year. The DTCM has also reported a three per cent increase in the number of hotel rooms available in the first half of 2004.

Al Ain, another prominent tourist destination, is trying to target regional and international tourists using a different approach. Its focus is on family-orientated cultural tourism. Known as the Oasis City, Al Ain has been undergoing a massive infrastructure development, jointly carried out by the Ruler's Representative in the Eastern Region, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, and Al Ain Municipality and Town Planning Department.

A city brand has recently been developed with the help of Landor Associates, an international brand and design consultancy firm. Its aim is to help the city pursue all possible opportunities without compromising its heritage, cultural integrity and distinctive identity.

UNESCO has been developing a heritage conservation strategy for Al Ain under an agreement signed in May 2003. The former Al Ain Economic Development and Tourism Promotion Authority has recently been reformed as Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority by His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi.

Sharjah, which is a 20-minute drive from Dubai, has also succeeded in marketing itself as a tourist destination with a style that matches its social, cultural and historical aspects. Its emphasis on Islamic and Arabian culture gives it a distinctive edge. According to official sources, 400,000 tourists spent more than one million nights in Sharjah in 2003.

Similarly, Abu Dhabi city is expecting a new drive in tourism promotion following the creation of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. Abu Dhabi has been spending billions of dirhams in setting up its tourism infrastructure. (The Gulf News UAE National Day Supplement)


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