Dubai tourism allure undiminished by hotel fire: tourism chief

Sun Jan 31, 2016 8:36am EST
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By David French

DUBAI (Reuters) - Bookings in Dubai's tourism industry are looking strong for the first quarter of this year despite the fire which swept through a downtown hotel on New Year's Eve, the head of the emirate's tourism department told Reuters on Sunday.

Fire engulfed the 63-storey Address Downtown luxury hotel and residential tower as thousands gathered below the nearby Burj Khalifa to watch a huge fireworks display.

Pictures of the blaze, the emirate's second major fire of 2015, were beamed around the world, but Dubai's allure as a tourism hub has not been diminished, according to Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of Dubai Tourism.

"Quarter 1 forward bookings are looking strong and we remain focused on this growth," he said, noting the "swift and efficient handling of the incident at a very busy time of year" highlighted that people's safety was always a priority.

Tourism is a key pillar of the economy of Dubai, which has established itself as a entertainment and conference hub.

Overnight visitor numbers jumped 7.5 percent in 2015 to 14.2 million, as the emirate built on its policy of attracting tourists from a wide range of countries, aided by the expanded reach of airlines Emirates and Flydubai, Almarri said.

Asia was the largest source of growth, with a 26 percent year-on-year jump in Indian visitors to more than 1.6 million people, making India Dubai's number one source of visitors.

South Asia as a whole saw an increase of 21.7 percent year on year, with the rest of Asia rising 17.9 percent, led by a continued gain in Chinese tourists.   Continued...

A fire engulfs the Address Hotel in downtown Dubai in the United Arab Emirates in this December 31, 2015 file photo. REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah/Files