From left: Ahmad Khoury, Mark Walsh, Saleh Al Geziry, Ali Abu Monassar at the ATM press conference
Dubai and the wider UAE have benefited from a surge of visitors in the wake of unrest that has swept the region, officials said. Experts and industry figures said that data due to be released at today\'s Arabian Travel Market in
Dubai, which will feature over 2,200 exhibitors from 69 countries, will show that unrest in markets such as Libya, Egypt and Tunisia has boosted tourism in the UAE.
\"So many of the destinations around us are closed because of the current situation. It\'s bad for them but it\'s good for Dubai,\" Ali Abu Monassar, chairman of Vision Destination Management, told reporters at a press conference yesterday, where the 2011 instalment of the global tourism expo was officially launched.
Saleh Al Geziry, Director of Overseas Missions at Dubai\'s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, added that it was not just regional unrest that was boosting Dubai\'s tourism industry at the beginning of 2011, but its reputation as well.
\"Whenever you have unrest travellers tend to stay within certain areas. Long haul flights reduce and safe destinations — ones that have been there for a long time and have proved themselves — always do gain benefits with international tourists,\" he said.
\"But I also like to believe that it is not only the unrest, but also the teamwork between stakeholders and the industry who have made it a stable industry.\"
The number of hotel guests in Dubai grew 10.7 per cent in 2010, while Abu Dhabi saw visitor growth of 18 per cent.
While Al Geziry would not reveal the first quarter figures ahead of today\'s announcement, he said the situation was positive. \"We\'ve seen very big growth in the first quarter of this year.\"
He said that in 2011, 140,000 people are directly employed in the tourism industry, with the government looking to increase that to 210,000 within ten years.
Indirect employment, he said, stood at 260,000, a figure which is expected to increase to 394,000 UAE-wide within the next ten years.
\"This is major growth,\" he said. \"If you look at other destinations worldwide they have not grown as quickly as Dubai.\"
Asked about the large number of exhibitors from countries hit by recent unrest, Mark Walsh, group exhibition director at Reed Travel Exhibitions, said that governments wanted to let people know that business was still going ahead.
\"For some of the countries that have been affected, tourism is so important that they want to re-assure people of what is going on. Egypt, for example, realises that there is caution out there, but I think within the next 12 months we will see these destinations coming back,\" he said.
According to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the Middle East currently receives more than 36 million visitors per year, with this figure set to climb to 69 million by 2020, an average growth rate of 6.7 per cent even before factoring in the substantial positive impact of Qatar\'s successful 2022 Fifa World Cup bid.
Walsh also drew attention to other areas in the GCC, including Saudi Arabia, which was a growing market.
\"Saudi Arabia is also growing in popularity as a destination for religious, business and cultural tourism, with BMI anticipating growth of 6.7 per cent per year between now and 2014,\" he said.
The Arabian Travel Market takes place today until Thursday at the Dubai Exhibition and Conference Centre.
Meanhile, new visa regulations are unlikely to affect the number of Canadians coming to Dubai, Al Geziry said. He said that the number of Canadians that visited the UAE in 2009 was 107,000, the same number that visited the country in 2010.
Figures were not immediately available for this year, but Al Geziry said that he didn\'t think the new requirements — which require Canadians to apply for a visa advance rather than receiving it on arrival — would have an effect.
\"The visa issue has not made a difference,\" he told reporters at a press conference launching the 2011 Arabian Travel Market.
Ahmad Khoury, senior vice president at Emirates, added that in terms of traffic on Emirates flights, the visa restrictions on Canadians had not had an adverse impact.