Propelled by strong trade flows and rising tourist traffic, Dubai’s economy expanded by 3.4 per cent in 2011, at a pace higher than what had been forecast. Arif Obaid Al Muhairi, executive director of Dubai Statistics Centre, or DSC, said the emirate’s economy gained around Dh10 billion in 2011 to reach Dh306.2 billion as its growth picked up momentum on the back of surging trade and tourist traffic. In 2012, Dubai’s economy is on track to gain more tail winds with the number of visitors expected to rise 10 per cent this year. Shaikh Ahmad bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee, has forecast a growth of up to five per cent for the emirate in 2012 thanks to its strategy of creating new opportunities through diversification. Most analysts had earlier estimated Dubai’s 2011 growth at around a modest three per cent. DSC figures revealed that most non-oil sectors recorded positive growth while trade remained a key growth driver as it expanded by nearly 5.8 per cent last year. The growth in gross domestic product, or GDP, was accompanied by sharp growth in the emirate’s exports, which leaped by nearly 44.3 per cent in 2011. The manufacturing sector grew at an impressive 11.7 per cent, contributing to the GDP growth by 1.5 per cent. Dubai’s transport and communications sector recorded 2.7 per cent growth while the hotels and restaurants sector increased by nearly 13.9 per cent, spurred by the growth in the number of hotels. Dubai’s 575 hotels generated revenues of Dhs16 billion last year, up 20 per cent. The year saw a five per cent increase in the number of hotel rooms and hotel apartments, which stood at 53,828 rooms and 21,015 hotel flats respectively. The International Monetary Fund pointed out that the recovery of the UAE economy was continuing despite an uncertain global economic environment. “High oil prices and increased production, strong growth in Asia, and the UAE’s perceived safe haven status in the context of the regional turmoil contributed to an estimated real GDP growth of 4.9 per cent in 2011.” The Federation of GCC Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FGCCI) predicted that the UAE’s GDP would climb to its highest level of around $385 billion in current prices in 2012 to maintain its position as the largest Arab economy after Saudi Arabia. At that level, the UAE will account for more than a fifth of the combined GDP of the GCC, forecast at around $1.46 trillion this year, its highest ever, the FGCCI said. It projected the real GCC growth in 2012 at 4.6 per cent and around seven per cent in current prices.