The chairman of Jumeirah Group, the state-backed hotel firm that
operates Dubai’s Burj Al Arab, has spoken out against a poll branding Dubai one
of the least safe tourism destinations.
A poll of British holidaymakers published last week placed
Dubai alongside Mexico, South Africa and Jamaica as countries they feel least
safe in, a result condemned by Gerald Lawless.
“You can go into our hotels now and just do a sample of all
of our guests and ask if you think Dubai is safe and 99.9 percent of our guests
will say; ‘Absolutely, it is one of the if not the safest destinations in the
world,’” Lawless told Arabian Business
on the sidelines of a Dubai event.
“It’s a misconception. There is something wrong because I
don’t believe it for one second.”
Dubai, which welcomes an estimated one million British
visitors each year, came fifth in a survey which asked travellers which
destinations they felt most at risk in.
The survey by UK-based travel agency Sunshine polled 2,916
people aged 21 and over and asked them to rate destinations they had visited in
the last three years for security.
Dubai has received high-profile coverage in the British
press in recent years, following a spate of arrests relating to crimes such as
the illegal consumption of alcohol and culturally inappropriate behaviour. The
British Embassy said in 2009 that Brits were more likely to be arrested in the
UAE than anywhere else in the world.
Jumeirah Group, which operates luxury hotels and resorts
owned by Dubai’s government, said tourism in the emirate was showing an uptick after
visitor numbers fell after the financial crisis.
“Some average room rates are now as good as they were before
the financial crisis, particularly in the beach hotels,” Lawless said.
Rates across Jumeirah’s 2,600 rooms declined 25 percent
during the global economic crisis.
“Are average room rates coming up? Yes, it is of course. Peaks
of average room rate will not be sustained for such long periods [as before the
crisis]. I think average room rates are at a very satisfactory level and we
have no problems with the rates we are achieving now,” he said.
Jumeirah Group plans to open about nine hotels this year,
including two in the Maldives. Properties will also be opened in Frankfurt,
Shanghai, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Kuwait.
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