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New tourism agency will not relegate smaller emirates

The importance and autonomy of tourism agencies in the smaller emirates will not be lost under the industry's new federal authority, industry officials say.

ABU DHABI // The importance and autonomy of tourism agencies in the smaller emirates will not be lost under the industry's new federal authority, industry officials say. "The mandate is very supportive of all the emirates," said Ahmed Hussein, deputy director of general operations at the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. "It does not mean it will downgrade local tourism authorities."

The name, details and full mandate of the new authority are not yet set. Sheikh Khalifa, President of the UAE, issued a decree to create the authority in December. Each emirate's tourism authorities are to be brought under the federal body, which will be run by the Ministry of Culture. The ministry would be charged with managing administrative duties and promotion of the country as a whole. Currently, each emirate manages its own tourism. Each creates its own brand and marketing, hotel rating scheme and overseas offices.

Eyad Abdul Rahman, executive director of media relations with Dubai's Department of Commerce and Tourism Marketing, said the Government is still working on the new tourism body and the emirates have yet to see the final details. But he said the federal body would formalise a cooperative relationship that already exists between the emirates. "Now it will be more official." The manager of the Ras al Khaimah tourism authority, Hilary McCormack, said the emirate had not yet received enough information to comment. A spokesman for the Ministry of Culture said information about the agency was not yet ready to be released.

The tourism industry has grown rapidly in the past decade. Seven million people came to Dubai last year and the emirate has set a target of 15 million annual visitors by 2015. Abu Dhabi expects to attract 2.7 million by 2012 and has poured billions of dirhams into attractions such as the Saadiyat Island cultural district, which is to include branches of the Guggenheim and Louvre museums. At present the capital relies on business and conference-related travel. Occupancy in hotels is 80 to 90 per cent and visitors often have difficulty finding hotel rooms.

The capital has plans to almost double its stock of available rooms, from 13,000 to 25,000 by 2012. jgerson@thenational.ae

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