By Elizabeth Broomhall
Credit crunch was catalyst for UAE to seek new revenue streams, says economy minister
The UAE plans to draw in a further six million tourists by 2020 under a plan to diversify its petrodollar-driven economy, the minister of economy said Monday.
The OPEC member, which generates the bulk of its wealth from Abu Dhabi’s crude reserves, aims to attract 15 million visitors by 2020.
“This figure will not be difficult to achieve,” HE Sultan Bin Saeed Al Mansoori said on the sidelines of the 4th Arabian Business Forum.
“We have the ability to do it but we just need to do a little bit more homework on the steps needed to achieve that 15 million.”
Abu Dhabi spent billions to diversify its economy away from oil, developing its industry, real estate, finance and tourism sectors.
The capital is investing heavily in infrastructure in a bid to establish itself as a tourism hub, following in the footsteps of glitzy neighbour Dubai with multibillion-dollar projects such as the Yas and Saadiyat island developments.
The city is aiming for a 15 percent annual increase of tourists with a target of 2.3 million by the end of 2012.
Speaking during his keynote address, Al Mansoori said the credit crunch had been a catalyst for the UAE to search out new forms of income to bolster economic growth.
The crisis “raised many challenging questions to the world economies and the UAE was not different,” he said. “As the GDP contribution of some major sectors such as real estate and construction began to decline, we were left with the question about the new economic sectors that we need to focus on.”
Tourism comprises around 25 percent of Dubai’s economy.
In the short-term, the UAE’s tourism figures have received a boost from the wave of Arab Spring revolts sweeping parts of the Middle East. Uprisings in popular holiday destinations such as Egypt and Jordan have diverted tourists to the Gulf state, seen as a safe haven after sidestepping the unrest.
“Dubai has benefited drastically, with high occupancy rates, more tourists, and high retail numbers, because your average Arab who used to go to ... Jordan, Syria or Lebanon, or to Egypt find these countries suffering from unrest," Mahdi Mattar, chief economist at Abu Dhabi-based CAPM Investment, said earlier this month.
I have no doubt that the UAE will stride forward with increased tourist numbers. The development path of your nation has paid off and with the continuing saga of oppressive regimes in the region and the civil unrest, you will continue to be a safe haven to many people in the region. Most importantly, you a template for the Middle-East, with all your sparkling skylines where the sky has always been the limit, but most importantly you are blessed with a good government where each Emirati rides on the tails of this briliant framework that was initiated by this government for the nation.
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