Spectacular growth

Tourism is booming in the New York of the Middle East
Meeting spot ... Dubai World Trade Centre complex by night

There’s no stopping Dubai, if latest statistics are any indication.

The emirate’s booming hospitality industry showcased its vibrancy by posting over 42 per cent growth in revenues between January and September 2004 compared with the corresponding period the previous year. Hotels and apartments played host to 4,099,772 guests. The volume of business done in the first nine months was Dh4.38 billion ($1.19 billion).
The fast-expanding industry remained upbeat with a spectacular 28.6 per cent increase in total guest nights, which stood at 11, 541, 417.
There was a 27.8 per cent increase in revenues, at Dh1.307 billion ($355 million) as against Dh1. 022 billion in the third quarter of 2003.
The number of guest nights in hotels and hotel apartments recorded a 14.5 per cent increase compared with 3,387,866 guest nights during the same period in 2003.
Hotels and hotel apartments’ room inventory went up by two per cent to reach 26,206 against 25, 683 in the third quarter of 2003.
Beach properties were way ahead of the city-centre hotels in terms of occupancy levels, with a rate of 90 per cent in August 2004 as against 84.2 per cent during the same month last year. This is followed by 87.1 per cent in September 2004 compared with 76.6 per cent the same period last year.
The director general of Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Khalid A bin Sulayem, says: “The phenomenal growth of the emirate’s tourism industry in general and hospitality sector in particular proves Dubai’s popularity as an ideal year-round business and leisure destination.”
He adds: “This success demonstrates the inspiring public-private sector cooperation towards taking the growth levels to newer heights. Our aggressive promotional and marketing initiatives contributed enormously to achieve the growth objectives and in giving a boost to Dubai’s image in overseas markets.”
The July-September period witnessed hotel revenues going up by 29.1 per cent while the hotel apartments posted 18.8 per cent in their quarterly business volumes.
Hotel and hotel apartments in Dubai currently offer a total of 26, 206 rooms and 43, 134 beds. The Gulf’s trade, tourism and technology hub has been posting impressive year-on-year growth, even in times of global uncertainties and negative trends.
The hotel room occupancy rate during the third quarter of 2004 was 79.4 per cent.
Room occupancy levels rose by 16.5 per cent and bed occupancy showed 22.2 per cent growth during the January-September period.
For 300 million Arabs, there’s only one New York, and that’s Dubai, says Mohammed Alabbar, the director general of Dubai Department of Economic Development.
And like New York, Dubai has a life of its own that extends beyond the high-rises on Sheikh Zayed Road, the frenetic pace of  development at The Palm Islands and the speeding cars on its highways. It is a life that one sees along the colourful creek, the bustling gold souk and the desert which blows at Dubai’s backdoor.
Here, basic human qualities like simplicity, humility and honesty underline the Arab way of life.
While much of the traditional way of life has disappeared in the shiny reflection of the tinted glasses of glitzy five-star hotels and commercial towers, the essence of Arabia has not been lost.
In Dubai, the sophistication of the 21st century goes hand in hand with the simplicity of a bygone era.
Here’s a city that has a heart. And a big one at that. Visitors are pampered, expats are looked after and the rulers never cease to shower their generosity. Limousines and gold biscuits are given away in prizes, millions are donated for charity and it’s not uncommon for the man on the street to wake up a millionaire.
A vibrant economy coupled with state-of-the-art telecommunication, sympathetic business environment and encouraging tax regimes have all contributed to turn the city into the region’s main commercial hub and a dynamic international business centre. Keen that perceptions about Dubai do not suffer from the negative image associated with some other Islamic countries in the Middle East, it is doing everything possible to create the right environment to encourage key global players to do business here.
However, with year-round activities – from the Dubai Shopping Festival, the world’s largest family festival, to the Dubai Summer Surprises, which encourages tourist traffic to Dubai during the warm summer months, to a host of top-quality international acts and concerts – leisure has surpassed business as the primary reason for visiting Dubai. As the first place in the region to recognise the importance of sports in promoting tourism, it also boasts an enviable calendar of year-round sporting events attracting top sportsmen and athletes. The long list includes horse races, international powerboat racing, pedigree camel races, the Dubai Air Show, Dubai Desert Golf Tournament, Dubai World Cup, Dubai Tennis Championships and Dubai Rugby Sevens. Not surprising then that Dubai is widely recognised as an international sporting venue and is on the mandatory calendar of scores of top sportsmen and athletes.
Look beyond, business, sports and leisure tourism, Dubai, with one of the lowest crime rates in the world, is known the world over as a clean, safe and vibrant city. To the international community at large, it also known as the home of the world’s first seven-star hotel and tallest all-suite hotel (Burj Al Arab), the world’s richest horse race (Dubai World Cup), the world’s longest footbridge (the Skywalk Bridge links two Marriott Executive Apartments), the world’s largest family festival (DSF) and the world’s first free-trade zone for e-commerce (Dubai Internet City). But that’s not all. Coming up, among others, is the world’s largest manmade island (The Palm), the world’s largest masterplanned waterfront development (Dubai Marina) and the world’s tallest building (Burj Dubai).
No wonder then that Dubai is acquiring the reputation of a city that never sleeps. If nothing else, it hasn’t rested since the time General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and UAE Minister of Defence, took office in January 1995. To many, the honesty in his message then still rings true. “I do not know if I am a good leader, but I am a leader,” he said. “And I have a vision. I look to the future, 20, 30 years. I learned that from my father, Sheikh Rashid. He was the true father of Dubai. I follow his example. He would rise early and go alone to watch what was happening on each of his projects. I do the same I watch. I read faces. I take decisions and I move fast. Full throttle.”   will.