Massive drive in tourist infrastructure planned
Sunday Business Post – Dubai Special – Aug 19 2007
Dubai now generates three times more income from tourism than it does from oil. This ratio is set to increase dramatically in the coming years, due to a raft of multibillion euro projects.
These include the world’s biggest airport – Dubai World Central International, Dubailand – a Disneyland-style tourist city which will include the eight wonders of the world rebuilt to scale, the ‘Palm’ man-made islands packed with five star hotels and amenities, and the Dubai Mall, which will be the world’s largest retail experience.
These projects will complement the facilities already in place in Dubai including the iconic seven-star, yacht-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel, the Wild Wadi Water Park, the Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club and the Mall of the Emirates, which houses a huge indoor ski slope, despite being only 25 degrees north of the equator.
“There has been massive investment in infrastructure and in entertainment and leisure facilities,” said Baerbel Kirchner, director of the UK and Ireland office of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
Kirchner said that Dubai offered a wide range of holiday experiences.
“You have a very diverse product offering, ranging from desert, beach, retail, golf, horse-racing, wellness and spa experience. The restaurants offer an international range of top quality cuisine. We also have guaranteed year round sunshine.”
Guy Crawford, chief executive of Jumeirah Group, the largest hotel and tourism business in Dubai, said that Dubai’s hotels were among the best in the world.
“Burj al Arab has won best hotel in the world,” Crawford said. “Jumeirah Emirates Towers has won best business hotel in the Middle East. The Jumeirah Beach Hotel has won best resort hotel in the world.”
“We look to have an individual experience tailored for each of our individual customers. There is an underwater seafood restaurant that caters for a unique once in a lifetime experience. Or you can go to the noodle house that we have in the souk (commercial quarter) and eat for a few euro.”
Crawford said Dubai attracted a wide range of holidaymakers, primarily from Europe, Russia and the Middle East, including 33,000 Irish guests to Jumeirah hotels in 2006.
Ireland is now linked by daily flights to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Aer Lingus has flights direct from Dublin to Dubai since March 2006, while El Etihad opened a new service from Dublin to Abu Dhabi in July. The Irish link with Jumeirah Group is particularly strong, as the company’s executive chairman is Irishman Gerald Lawless.
“Gerald has been with the company since its inception,” said Crawford. “Initially the link between Dubai and Ireland would have been very much with horse-racing, but with the direct flights our Irish business has grown.”
Kirchner said Dubai was not a budget backpacker destination.
“What you find in Dubai is very good value,” said Kirchner. “The level of service and facilities is incredibly high and I don’t think anywhere else in the world can compare in terms of value. Dubai is a global leader in quality, style and luxury.”
Dubai is now very much an international destination, rather than a regional Gulf city, according to Kirchner.
“We are at the crossroads between East and West, which gives us a diversity of influences,” she said.
While the UAE is among the most liberal of the Gulf countries, Kirchner advised Irish visitors to respect its cultural and religious heritage.
“When travelling to any destination it is important to be culturally aware, for instance one should dress sensibly. However alcohol is offered in all hotels and licenced restaurants.”