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Furthermore, Lebanon enjoyed a considerable increase (+26%) on the already positive trend experienced in 2003, despite a politically rocky patch following the assassination of former prime minister Rafiq Hariri. Minister of tourism, Joseph Sarkis, described the new Beirut government's commitment to "enhancing the promotion of tourism in different sectors and encouraging investments in the country, in order to make Lebanon a first-class tourism destination in the Middle East" (quoted in Wells, 2006 at p. 48).
Even Jordan experienced healthy growth in tourism, and managed to overcome its losses from 2003; an enthusiastic managing director of Jordan's Tourism Board declared at the World Travel Market (WTM), Mazen Homoud, reported that, "As with all the countries that have seen terrorist attacks, the resilience and the professionalism of the (tourism) industry is already shining through and Jordan is back on track" (quoted in Wells, 2006 at p. 48). The proof is in the tourism pudding, so to speak, and the managing director was right with inbound arrivals to Jordan increasing by a whopping 21% to 2.8 million in 2004 and by 9% for the period January-June 2005; it should be noted, though, that not all these visitors were regular tourists. According to Wells, "Jordan's capital Amman has become the centre for many companies and agencies working to re-build Iraq; this business visitor sector has become the country's second-highest earner of foreign exchange --contributing $803m, 10% of Jordan's GDP in 2004" (2006, p. 49).
Egypt's tourist sector continued to experience healthy figures, generating $6 billion in 2004. The country's tourism minister, Ahmed el Maghraby, announced plans to add another 10,000 hotel rooms to the current inventory over the next decade in an attempt to accommodate the continually increasing demand: "Egypt has marvellous potential and can attract 14m tourists a year," the minister said. A huge swathe of dedicated new tourism development is focused on the Red Sea riviera between Hurghada and Safaga. The new umbrella organisation of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organisation of Iran, headed by the country's deputy president, Parvaneh Sattari, exhibited for the first time at the WTM in London in November heralding Iran's determination to make an impact on the international tourism stage" (quoted in Wells, 2006 at p. 49).
Tourism in Oman has also experienced healthy growth patterns, due in large part to the political stability provided by the leadership of Sultan Qaboos, who celebrated the 35th anniversary of his accession to the throne in 2006 (Wells, 2006). The high quality hospitality provided by the industry in Oman was recognized by the Conde Nast Traveller readers' award presented to the Chedi hotel in Muscat. According to Wells, "The Chedi was listed in the magazine's top 10 best resorts and top 10 best spa resorts in the Middle East, Africa and Indian Ocean at the eighth annual awards ceremony held in London in September 2005. Hot on its heels, the beachside Shangri-La hotel resort development, just outside the city of Muscat, is also wooing the luxury market with a seven-star hotel" (Wells, 2006, p. 49).
Travel and Tourism in the United Arab Emirates.
According to U.S. government analysts, the United Arab Emirates' (UAE) per capita GDP is comparable to those of leading West European nations and expenditures of oil revenues and its moderate foreign policy policies have allowed the UAE to play an increasingly important role in the affairs of the region (UAE, 2007). As Sheller and Urry (2004) note, "The country's oil resources took Dubai into a tremendous spiral of development: paved roads, telephone, water supply, and electricity.... This has provided the incentive to diversify its economy in order to become less dependent on oil. Thus the strategy has been systematically to reinvest the revenues from oil into society. In addition, "The UAE has an open economy with a high per capita income and a sizable annual trade surplus" (UAE, 2007, p. 3). According to Salloum (2001), the United Arab Emirates has transformed itself from a backwards rural kingdom into a modern, cosmopolitan state with much to offer the business and pleasure traveler alike. "A collection of mud huts a few decades ago," he writes, "Abu Dhabi today, virtually a new city, was a promising beginning for our exploration of the United Arab Emirates. The broad tree-lined avenues, edged by whitewashed buildings, gave no indication that for untold centuries this had been a desert land. The past had been hidden by the affluence of the modem world" (Salloum, 2001, p. 364). The author describes Abu Dhabi as, "An ultra-modern city of skyscrapers, towering to the heavens, landscaped gardens and streets lined with trees and flowers. For us, it was easy to imagine that Abu Dhabi's magic was to be found in the whole of the UAE, consisting of seven states: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain, Ras Al Khamiah and Fujairah -- all with capitals carrying the same name as the state" (see map at Appendix a) (Sallou, 2001, p. 364).
The recently established Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) is actively targeting the UK as a key priority market in its drive to boost visitor numbers from less that lm in 2004 over 3m by 2015. Britain already ranks as the largest source of European travellers to the emirate, accounting for some 65,000 visitors and 215,000 guest nights in 2004, an increase of around 20% on the previous year (Wells, 2006). According to Sheller and Urry (2004), "Today Dubai is truly a place of flows. Dubai airport is one of the world's fastest growing. In 2003 about 18 million passengers passed through it, which was an increase of 13 per cent from the year before (itself an increase of 18 per cent on the year before that). The prognosis is that by 2010 the number of passengers will have increased to 40 million" (p. 183). In this regard, Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, enthused: "Abu Dhabi has significant potential as a tourist destination. It has great natural assets, including year-round sunshine, extensive beaches, islands and spectacular desert scenery. We also have top quality luxury hotels, superb sports and recreation facilities, as well as a range of cultural and heritage attractions. We believe the European market is now very receptive to the Abu Dhabi message" (quoted in Wells, 2006 at p. 48). Moreover, Abu Dhabi intends to invest more than $10 billion during the next decades in tourism-related projects and is planning to increase the number of hotel rooms available from 7,500 to 20,000 (Wells, 2006).
Abu Dhabi won the "best stand" award at the WTM with an impressive display that attempted to transport visitors to the Middle East -- through the creation of an atmosphere combining sights, sounds, and smells such as the aroma of spices, incense and rose petals. With its ambition to have 1.4m tourists by 2010 and to demonstrate its commitment to the sector, on 25 September 2005, Qatar held its World Tourism Day. It is also on track with plans to host to the Asian Games in December 2006. Qatar plans to increase the number of hotel rooms from the current 3,700 to 7,400 by 2007. Meanwhile, Doha airport is being extended to accommodate as many passengers as Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris by 2015 (Wells, 2006).
It is clear that the policymakers in the UAE are not content to rely on the natural beauty of the region or the stellar accommodations to draw tourists. For instance, Wells reports that initiatives range from indoor skiing to underwater hotels, with Dubai providing maximum diversity for travelers (2006). These initiatives include the following:
2007 -- the Hydropolis: The world's first underwater hotel which guests will reach by train through a clear tunnel on the seabed, to stay in $6,000-a-night underwater glass rooms 5km offshore.
2007 -- Dubai Sports City: The world's only integrated purpose-built sports venue, will incorporate a Manchester United soccer school, a David Lloyd tennis centre and an Ernie Els golf course.
2008 -- the World: A collection of 300 manmade islands currently under construction 5km off the coast, being built in the shape of the world, will offer a collection of luxury villas and apartments.
2008 -- the Burj Dubai: At half-a-mile high, the world's tallest tower will have hotels, apartments and shops. The $275 million building will be extendible should anybody else have the temerity to top its height.
2010 -- Dubailand: This 5.2 billion [pounds sterling] collection of theme parks, shops and entertainment centers will be twice the size of Walt Disney World in Florida. Its centerpiece will be one of the world's largest shopping malls, Mall of Arabia, and a dinosaur theme park, Restless Planet.
Luxury tourism in the Middle East is also on the up epitomised by groups such as Jumeirah, the young, fast moving Dubai-based luxury hospitality…[continue]
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