Dubai was not particularly high on the list of destinations Julia Deere wanted to visit. Nor was she particularly impressed with the city once she arrived.
But with seven hours to spare before her connecting flight in Dubai on a trip from London to Singapore, she decided to head out of the airport and explore.
"I got a cab to Dubai Mall, went to a few shops and then had dinner in a cafe in the mall which overlooked the Burj Khalifa and the fountain show," says Ms Deere, 28, an events manager from Britain.
"In the short time I was there I didn't particularly like it, but if I pass through again for work, I might stay a night to take more in."
She spent about £40 (Dh231.28) during her brief, essentially unplanned, visit to Dubai but enjoyed her stay just enough to consider coming back again.
And that is exactly what the emirate is looking for.
With millions of travellers passing through Dubai's airport each year, the emirate has used its status as a travel hub to help to drive the tourism industry.
Now Abu Dhabi is on the same flight path as it tries to lure more of the growing numbers of transit passengers out of the waiting lounges and into the city.
A record 12.4 million passengers passed through Abu Dhabi International Airport last year, up 13.9 per cent from the previous year, according to aviation authorities.
Already, a Dh25 million (US$6.8m) redevelopment and expansion plan is under way at the airport as Abu Dhabi grows as an aviation hub. At the same time, the capital is striving to boost tourism revenue by attracting 7.9 million hotels guests annually by 2030.
"There are so many millions of passengers travelling through Abu Dhabi airport," says Torbjorn Bodin, the general manager of the Radisson Blu hotel on Yas Island.
"So many people are coming from Europe, going through Abu Dhabi to India, to Australia, to other parts of the world. And from the other way, going from East to West. If we can have all these people staying for two days or three days in Abu Dhabi, that would be an enormous boost for tourism in Abu Dhabi," he says.
Etihad Airways is offering a free 96-hour visa for passengers passing through the capital. Tourists from countries including Britain and other European nations were already receiving visas on arrival.
But now the promotion offers a free visa for tourists from many other countries including China, India, Bangladesh, Belarus, Canada, Egypt, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia and South Africa. Before visitors from such countries would have to pay Dh300 for Etihad's visa service.
"With record numbers of passengers transiting through Abu Dhabi in 2011, the visa service will lure more of them to venturing beyond the airport," says Saj Ahmad, the chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.
"Dubai has been highly successful in doing this already. In particular, the list of countries to whom this new visa service applies … represents the eclectic mix of people from across the globe that both fly with and are now served by Etihad's growing network, so it makes sense to open up Abu Dhabi to them and give them a chance to spend in the city," Mr Ahmad says.
The offer also includes a free city tour of Abu Dhabi.
The Radisson Blu, which has partnered Etihad in the visa promotion, has reported increased interest for bookings as more travellers become aware of the offer.
Transit visitors have played a vital role in the continued growth of Dubai's tourism industry, as airlines, hotels and local authorities have linked up for promotions. Emirates Airline offers free 36-hour visas and stopover deals.
"People [are] travelling from all over the world, transiting through Dubai," says Guido de Wilde, the senior vice president and regional director for Starwood Hotels and Resorts in the Middle East. "Then all the authorities trying to keep that traveller who transits through Dubai in Dubai. All these efforts are paying off."
Dhanush Kumar from Hyderabad in India is just the sort of passenger Dubai is seeking. He stayed in Dubai with his wife for three days on a stopover visa through Emirates Airline.
"Comparing to other visa processes, it was very quick," says Mr Kumar. The couple spent 200,000 rupees (Dh14,590) on shopping and going out in Dubai during their stay, he says.
"My wife liked Dubai so much, more than UK, and she was telling me that she wants to go again with the whole family."