Of the three smallest emirates in the UAE, Ajman is far and away the powerhouse of tourism.
With all the geographical advantages of the UAE in its favour and none of the bustle of busier stops such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Ajman has become a place for GCC residents and European tourists alike to get away from it all.
Sheikh Ammar bin Humaid Al Nuaimi, the crown prince of Ajman, has made no secret of his desire to see Ajman develop into a tourism hotspot. “Our ambitions target a place for Ajman on the world's tourism map,” he said last year. Accordingly, several new projects have been announced in line with this vision.
For now, the closest airports are in Sharjah and Dubai, but construction on the Dh12 billion ($3.26 billion) Ajman airport is expected to begin later this year. Projected to open in 2011, the airport is to be built by a consortium of Spanish companies at Al Manama on a desert site of six million square metres. Some one million passengers are expected to use the airport in the first three years, driven largely by low-cost carriers and cargo operations in the initial phase.
The Dh50 billion Al Zawra development, to be sited on a 12 km strip of the emirate’s unused coastline, is expected to put the emirate on the map, bringing in ‘tens of thousands’ of visitors to the area. Being developed jointly by the Ajman Government and Lebanese development firm Solidere, plans include high rise towers, hotels, malls and beachfront restaurants.
Work also continues apace on a $3 billion marina project that was launched in October last year and is expected to be finished by 2015. With waterfront living as its hallmark, the Ajman Marina, sprawling over a space of 240,000 sq m, is designed to be a luxurious retreat, complete with residential and commercial buildings and office spaces, a five star hotel, international food chains, sea view cafes, a signature yacht club, an extensive shopping mall and various ancillary entertainment and leisure facilities.
The first phase of the semi government firm Aqaar’s $1.3 billion Ajman 1 residential, commercial and hospitality complex is to be completed in three years’ time, while work on the second phase, which will consist of three office towers, a convention centre, and a four star business hotel with serviced apartments, has just begun.
Ajman Escape, a Dh1.8 billion equestrian themed community, to be completed in 2010, will feature facilities for horse riding, along with villas, houses, apartments, an activities centre, a sports arena and a world class hotel.
Much of the tiny emirate’s development is a result of its success in attracting foreign investments, with foreigners now owning 33 per cent of development projects in the emirate compared to 11 per cent in the other emirates, according to Ajman Chamber of Commerce and Industry statistics. Ajman’s annual investment growth rate is estimated at an average of 6.7 per cent.
The Ajman government has also taken many steps in recent years to implement a solid infrastructure – at a cost of Dh1.38 billion, a growing free zone industrial area and a strategically located port.
The shortage of high end hotel accommodation available in the emirate is also set to change with several new hotels likely to open in the emirate or on the Sharjah-Ajman border.
Among these is a development spearheaded by Hollywood actor Patrick Swayze, whose PKN Princess Resorts is building a five star hotel, residential ‘palaces, townhouses, apartments and a Las Vegas style entertainment arena for world class celebrity singers and artists.
The 248 room Sharjah Marriott Resort & Spa, to be situated on a 20,500 sq m beachfront site, will be aimed at the conference market with 16,054 sq ft of meeting space.
A 1000 room Golden Tulip Ajman, opens in two phases: a 444 room, four star component to open this year, and a 550 room five star phase set to open late 2009.
Mِvenpick is also scheduled to open a 262-room hotel in the emirate, likely sometime this year.
Other new hotels are being developed under Berggruen Hotels and the economy Premier Inn brand.
With hotel occupancy rates in the neighbouring emirates running at about 80 per cent, this anticipated rise in the number of hotel rooms and hotel apartments is expected to provide welcome relief.
By CLARK KELLY