x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Fujairah's new highway promises economic benefits

A new federal motorway between Fujairah and Dubai promises to shave 45 minutes off travel times and boost the tourism, property and air cargo sectors. Next year, the Ministry of Public Works and Housing is expected to complete a Dh1.5 billion (US$408 million), 77km, six-lane motorway that cuts directly through the Hajar Mountains, shortening the current winding 135km route. "This will definitely attract people to Fujairah," said Salem Khalil, a technical adviser to the Government of Fujairah.

"We think this will attract trading with the business community and improve real estate." The emirate lacks the oil and gas deposits that benefited Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Sharjah, and instead has pursued a two-pronged economic plan targeting tourism and industry. While industry has relied on oil bunkering and other marine services that take advantage of Fujairah's prime location outside the Strait of Hormuz, the tourist trade is almost entirely reliant on guests arriving by road from other emirates.

That pattern applies to UAE residents and to foreign tourists arriving at Dubai International Airport. The motorway "is going to be major for the hotels", said Patrick Antaki, the general manager of Le Meridien Al Aqah Beach Resort. "At the moment, people only come for public holidays because they see Fujairah as a big trip, but when they see it as a 45-minute trip, they will come up for shorter periods," he said. The new road will increase the competitive offering for Fujairah as a Northern Emirates destination in relation to Ras al Khaimah, which is easier to get to from Dubai airport, Mr Antaki added.

The new transport link should benefit new property developments such as Al Hilal City and make Fujairah an option as a bedroom community for Dubai workers in the same vein as Sharjah. Al Hilal, near the Port of Fujairah, will include high-rises for offices and homes, shopping malls and cinemas. No one, however, has expressed as much eagerness for the new motorway as Dr Khaled Almazroui has. "As the general manager of Fujairah International Airport, I'm the first person looking forward to this motorway," he said.

With 90 per cent of the airport's flights carrying cargo, mostly in export and re-export operations, the shorter journey is expected to cut down on road transport costs and make Fujairah more competitive for traders and for visitors from overseas. igale@thenational.ae