On the face of it, last week’s Tourism Vision for 2020 launch is bold stuff. Put simply, Dubai is planning for 20 million tourists a year by the year 2020. If achieved, that would mean the tourism sector contributing an incredible AED300bn a year to the economy, three times more than it now does.
Twenty million? Really? Yes, and I think it’s completely achievable for two reasons. First is the track record. In the past eight years, the number of annual tourists has doubled to 10 million. We are currently looking at a growth rate of 9.5 percent a year. When you look closely at the spread of plans — which cover making Dubai a family destination, an events destination and a business destination — you realise that just by standing still, Dubai would get close to 20 million.
Of course, standing still is not what Dubai is about, and hence the second reason: the man in charge of all this is new DTCM director general Helal Almarri. Our cover star this week, Almarri has already done a brilliant job at the World Trade Centre. GITEX, as an example, is nothing short of a world-class event. Almarri has a gift for both thinking big, but then really paying attention to the details.
The real challenge for Dubai, and a point to which Almarri alludes, is the lack of hotel rooms. There are already 80,500 rooms in the emirate, but they are clearly not enough.
He tells us in the interview: “We need a lot more hotel rooms. We actually have a massive shortage. We need to double the number as fast as we can. There are no periods in the year when occupancy in Dubai is not the highest in the world, and I mean throughout the year. If you look at growth rates in terms of guests, last year it was 9.5 percent. At this rate, in next two years, we will have run out of space. Today, definitely, definitely, we could do with 30 percent more hotel rooms. When you are achieving 10 percent growth every year, you need the capacity or room rates go up, which is something nobody wants to see happen.”
Well, I guess it’s a good problem to have.
Isn’t it time Blatter gave himself the boot?
As international laughing-stocks and institutionally corrupt organisations go, nothing beats FIFA does it? Another week, and another bunch of crooks are exposed at FIFA.
This time it was the turn of the disgraced “honorary” president Joao Havelange. FIFA has finally confirmed what we all knew: that Havelange (now 96) had taken a wadful of bribes in the 1990s, from FIFA’s now defunct sports and marketing agency ISL. So did South American football president Nicolas Leoz, and so did former FIFA executive Ricardo Teixeria.
Last week FIFA also handed out an eight-year ban to Vernon Manilal Fernando, after the Sri Lankan (and leading member of the executive committee) was found to have violated the “code of ethics.” Manilal is a good pal of Mohamed Bin Hammam — remember him? He’s the Qatari who got nabbed for handing out brown envelopes of cash in his bid to become FIFA president two years ago.
Anyway, you see a pattern here don’t you? Is it just me who thinks that from top to bottom, FIFA is an utter shambles? I suspect not. But in any organisation that has been turned into a joke, it is rightly the man at the top who gets the bullet. This latest bout of scandal came after the publication of a report by FIFA’s ethics committee, in which that man at the top, Sepp Blatter, is described as “clumsy.”
Clumsy? This is a man running an organisation that last year raked in $1.16bn, and turned in a profit of $89m. We deserve better than a clumsy fool in charge.
Anil Bhoyrul is the Editorial Director of Arabian Business.