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Mon 2 Mar 2009 01:33 PM

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Tourism boss upbeat on projects amid global crisis

All projects will go ahead as planned, says Abu Dhabi's tourism authority chief.

Abu Dhabi will go ahead with all tourism projects that have been announced and is expecting the number of visitors in 2009 to match last year's figure, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority has said.

"Whatever the other arms of the government have announced is going ahead," Mubarak Hamad Al Muhairi told Arabian Business on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Economic Forum.

"Aldar is on schedule to open its circuit for Formula 1; Abu Dhabi Airport Company is continuing with the developments of the airport; and Saadiyat Island and the museums are on track."

The number of hotel guests in Abu Dhabi grew by four percent to 1.5 million last year but the emirate is forecasting growth to be flat this year as the international recession takes its toll on the sector. "To be on the conservative side, we maintain this number," he said.

"There is no destination in the world that is immune to this crisis but I think Abu Dhabi will still be positive. We think we will achieve the same number of arrivals as last year."

The World Tourism Organisation is expecting global travel to fall by two percent this year.

"Abu Dhabi is a small market, dominated by business travellers," Al Muhairi said, but added that the emirate has tripled its capacity for events and conferences over the last two years.

Tourism in the Middle East has seen heady growth in the last five years, clocking up double digit growth while more mature markets grew by only four to five percent.

"There is still growth in the economy here and in government spending," Al Muhairi said.

Abu Dhabi takes a long term view of all its tourism projects, and the international economy may have begun to recover by the time some of them are scheduled for completion, he added.

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