Hospitality sector vital for Dubai 2003

Ahmed Al Banna, assistant general co-ordinator for Dubai 2003, addresses the Dubai chapter of Skal

 Ahmed Al Banna, assistant general co-ordinator of Dubai 2003, told tourism leaders in Dubai they had a critical role to play in the hosting of the Annual Meetings of the Boards of Governors of the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund this month.

Al Banna was addressing the Dubai chapter of Skal, the international organisation of tourism leaders, and said: “The role of the tourism and hospitality industries is critical: they are the first point of contact for the visitors - of which 70 per cent have never been to Dubai before.”

The UAE’s already flourishing tourism industry can expect a US$45 million cash boost during the event; at present, tourism makes up almost 18 per cent of the GDP of Dubai, with oil revenues contributing 17 per cent.

The immediate financial benefits of hosting the event will come through the direct spending impact of the influx of visitors to Dubai - with more than 10,000 hotel rooms in the city booked for the event by the organising committee.

Al Banna said: “In the short term we estimate there will be a direct investment boost of $45 million generated through spending on hotels, restaurants, transportation and other areas.

“Hundreds of millions of dollars worth of additional business is projected to be generated from the ripple effect of the meetings - repeat visits, word-of-mouth referrals and increased global awareness of the UAE and the region.”

Al Banna added: “There is significant potential to capitalise on this event in the long term, through maximising the profile of the UAE’s ability to host huge conventions - which is big business, and remains an unexploited resource for the tourism and hospitality industry in this country.”

The hotel industry in Dubai has been gearing up for the September meetings since it was announced (in 1999) that the UAE would be the first country in the Arab world to host the event.

In the last two years, a number of new hotels have been geared specifically towards servicing the convention sector, such as the Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, Grand Hyatt, The Fairmont, Dubai as well as the Ibis and Novotel properties, which are physically linked to the Dubai International Convention Centre (DICC).

The recently-completed DICC is also just a few hundred metres away from the site of the Dubai International Financial Centre - a development designed to strategically position the UAE and Dubai to become the Gulf region’s financial hub.

The Dubai chapter of Skal was launched in September with the support of Dubai Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM), and 20 founding members. Membership is on target to reach 100 by year end.