Tourism key to Fujairah’s economic growth

Divers enjoy Fujairah’s pristine waters, overlooking the new Hotel Jal Fujairah Resort and Spa

TAKING a leaf from Dubai’s tourism book is the easternmost emirate of Fujairah, which hopes tourism will boost its economic growth.

The Fujairah government allocated Dh2.94 billion in 2006 for the development of tourism over a five-year period. Private investors have since been lured to the emirate, and several new projects have been announced, all lured by the potential of the emirate’s unique geography, blessed by both mountains and white beaches.
Among these is the Dh1 billion Al Dana township, with 350 villas and 11 hotels to be built on reclaimed land.
Also underway is the Fujairah Paradise project, which will develop a concentration of villas, five star hotels and shops near the Omani border at a cost of Dh2 billion.
Projects in the planning stage include a large residential community in one of the more secluded valleys close to the coast, and a smaller community at Ghurfa, just south of Fujairah City.
And last month Al Hillal City, a new residential, commercial and business development was announced. It will be sited on a large piece of land opposite Fujairah port.
Perhaps the biggest – and certainly the most important – new development has been infrastructural: a Dh1.2-billion new 76km road connecting the emirate to Dubai is expected to open late in 2009, and is projected to reduce travelling time between the two emirates to 30 minutes.
The emirate is also redeveloping its airport, which currently welcomes sees charters from Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada.
Plans are in place to boost throughput to one million passengers in 2011, up from 35,887 in 2005, according to figures from the Airports Council International. A new passenger terminal and associated structures are being developed at a cost of Dh183 million.
Plans are in place for a budget airline, Kang Pacific, to launch operations this year, with $10 million in capital. Originally scheduled to launch operations last year, it hopes to connect the emirate with the Philippines, Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka.
Direct flights into Fujairah can only boost hotel occupancy rates, with location and the quality of accommodation being determining factors.
Under 300,000 tourists currently visit Fujairah annually, but Fujairah Tourism Board officials expect the number to grow exponentially in line with new developments. At present, 60 per cent of that number comprises European visitors, while the remainder is made up the UAE’s weekend market, according to the Fujairah Tourism Bureau.
In 1997, the emirate was home to one hotel, the Hilton Fujairah, which remains a big draw for tourists even though a dozen established properties are competing for tourist dollars today, including the monolith Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort.
In 2007 alone, several new hotels in the emirate opened their doors, including the Jal Fujairah Resort and Spa, the Fujairah Rotana Resort and Spa and the Iberotel Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort.
New hotels announced or planned in the emirate include a Kempinski, a Premier Inn, an Iberotel Royal Miramar Resort, Al Safeer Group’s Marque Hotel and shopping complex, and a mountain resort near Fujairah's Al Wurayah Waterfalls.
By Clark Kelly