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Growth in cruise tourism could help fill Dubai's increasing number of hotel rooms. Stephen Lock / The National
Growth in cruise tourism could help fill Dubai's increasing number of hotel rooms. Stephen Lock / The National

Dubai hopes for new wave of tourists

Cruise ships and exhibitions are two factors Dubai is confident will help it fill 10,000 extra hotel rooms coming on stream this year, officials said

Dubai tourism chiefs hope the growth of the cruise ship industry and more exhibitions will help fill the 10,000 hotel rooms to be added to the emirate's hospitality market this year.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said it would also focus on implementing a new hotel classification system announced last year.

"The year 2011 is expected to outperform 2010 in terms of increasing the numbers of tourists, hotels, hotel rooms, and participation in international exhibitions and conventions, in addition to increasing awareness of Dubai abroad," said Eyad Ali Abdul Rahman, a spokesman for DTCM. Tourism directly accounts for about 19 per cent of the emirate's GDP.

The number of hotel rooms and hotel apartment rooms increased during the first three quarters of last year to 68,654 rooms from 59,372 in the same period the year before, the DTCM said.

Hoteliers have expressed some concern that the increase in rooms would mean business over the summer, the low season in Dubai, would be much slower this year. But, they say the supply of rooms throughout the rest of the year could be absorbed because of growth in Middle East airline capacity.

Also, source markets such as India and China have great potential for growth, and Dubai has become much more affordable as a holiday destination.

"On certain occasions there is demand for so many rooms, especially when you have festivals and events such as Formula One in Abu Dhabi," said Syed Zulfiqar Mehdi, the director of sales and marketing at the Samaya Hotel, a five-star property in Deira in Dubai. "In the last week of December all the hotels were packed. As the number of passengers increase, the demand will definitely increase."

Rates and occupancy levels are down sharply from their pre-crisis peaks because of additional supply and the global economic downturn. But, despite several new hotels opening last year, Dubai has managed to maintain relatively healthy occupancy levels, largely because of attractive deals. A number of budget properties opened in Dubai last year, including a Premier Inn near Dubai International Airport and an easyHotel in Jebel Ali.

Hotel guests in Dubai in the first nine months of last year reached 5,991,660 guests, up 6 per cent from the same period in 2009.

Properties expected to open in the emirate this year include the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray and the Royal Amwaj resorts, both on the Palm Jumeirah. A Moevenpick hotel opened in Deira on Saturday.

"2011 will require hotel professionals in Dubai, both investors and operators, to be more focused than ever on the core strengths of the market now that the industry has entered into a maturity stage," said Chiheb ben Mahmoud, the senior vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, Middle East and Africa.

"In such context, some hospitality flagships, whether newly developed or old ones, will need to be subject to major strategic reassessments and important decisions to be taken as what to do next."

The cruise industry is growing each year as Dubai positions itself as the Middle East hub for international liners. The Italian company Costa Cruises expects to bring 150,000 passengers to Dubai this season, a 7 per cent increase on last year.

Mr Rahman said the DTCM would continue with "many important initiatives such as the Dubai Green Tourism Award, Kids Go Free campaign, and the Definitely Dubai campaign".

Under the new classification system, hotels will still be rated on a scale of one to five stars, but five-star properties will be placed in one of three categories - platinum, goldand silver. Hotels will also be rated under different categories including business, beach and desert. The system has been under development for almost four years.

Hoteliers in Dubai said they received no further information on the system after the announcement at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai last May.



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