$ 82 bn: Dubai to treble tourism income by 2020

Updated 06 May 2013
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$ 82 bn: Dubai to treble tourism income by 2020

DUBAI: Dubai aims to treble its annual income from tourism to AED 300 billion ($82 billion) by 2020, which would involve doubling the number of its hotel rooms, a senior official said.
Tourism is crucial to Dubai’s economy, which had a gross domestic product of around $90 billion last year; it supports the emirate’s large retail industry as well as its hospitality sector.
Occupancy at Dubai’s 599 hotels, which have 80,500 rooms combined, was 78 percent in 2012 as the number of visitors rose 9.3 percent from a year ago to 10.16 million, according to data from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of the DTCM, said the emirate was likely to have more than 160,000 hotel rooms by the end of the decade and aimed to attract 20 million tourists annually by then.
Most decisions to build hotels would not be made by the Dubai government but by private companies. However, the Dubai government is active in supporting growth of the industry by providing infrastructure, marketing the emirate overseas, adjusting visa policies for visitors and expanding the network of the state-owned Emirates airline.
Saudi Arabia, India and Russia will be the main contributors to expected growth in tourist numbers, Almarri said.
“With Emirates airline and other carriers we focus very much on extending the routes to those markets,” he said.
Dubai’s main airport handled 5.85 million passengers in March, up 20.6 percent from a year earlier, according to airport authorities.
“Airport capacity is not on our critical list of issues to worry about,” said Almarri.
“We can easily put on more flights at any time.”
Dubai is pressing ahead with a $ 7.8 billion plan to expand Dubai International Airport, and plans eventually to migrate traffic to an even bigger facility.”
Traditionally, Dubai has been known for five-star hotels, but more budget hotels have been built in the last few years, appealing to a wider tourist base. Almarri acknowledged this was an important trend.
“The importance in our growth is to have a mix of hotels,” he said. “Over the last five years the hotel offering in Dubai has become more diversified.”
At present, hotel guests stay for an average of 3.76 nights; hotel revenue was $ 5.13 billion in 2012.
Almarri said that to help increase the average length of stay, Dubai would build more entertainment facilities. Plans for several theme parks have been announced in the last few months by companies backed by the government.
“I have every confidence that we will have over the next three to four years coming on line a significant number of tourist attractions which are purely entertainment-like theme parks,” said Almarri.
Having been forced to provision heavily for bad loans following the collapse of Dubai’s real estate market in 2008-2011, banks have become more prudent about financing large-scale projects. Almarri said the theme parks would be funded largely through public-private partnerships.
“Theme parks are procured rather than built in many cases, so come with their own financing packages — the rides are built elsewhere, so you will probably find that many governments around the world are encouraging exports,” he said.


‘Smart’ Dubai banks on blockchain

Updated 17 August 2018
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‘Smart’ Dubai banks on blockchain

  • The Dubai Blockchain Strategy lays out how Dubai will use blockchain to improve government efficiency
  • Blockchain promises to mean no more forlorn trips between government buildings to get the necessary paperwork in order

DUBAI: Blockchain is a technology that is both feared and revered, its potential to rip up the old order — from currencies to law — making it both a threat and an opportunity to long-established industries and institutions.

For Dubai, blockchain offers the promise to become a truly global tech leader, as Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, director general of the Smart Dubai initiative, explained to Arab News.

The Dubai Blockchain Strategy, launched in 2016, lays out how Dubai will use blockchain to improve government efficiency, create an entire new industry based on distributed ledger technology and help other cities make similar advances.

Gulf bureaucracy has historically been a source of anguish for citizens and expats alike, the frustrations of obtaining the documentation required to gain access to state-sanctioned services and a local driving license becoming a right-of-passage among the recently arrived.

Such stereotypes are increasingly obsolete, however, as governments turn to technology to streamline processes. Having introduced numerous smart services, Dubai now aims by 2020 to become the first city where all government-related processes run on blockchain. Should Dubai succeed, 100 million documents annually will be transacted digitally, cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 114 metric tons and saving 5.5 billion dirhams ($1.5 billion) in administrative costs each year.

 

Blockchain promises to mean no more forlorn trips between government buildings to get the necessary paperwork in order, freeing up 25.1 million hours annually that could be put to better use.

“We want to give people back their time, which is the most valuable thing in life,” said Bishr. “With the realization of the Dubai Blockchain Strategy we will move the role of government to providing happiness to people.”

As Dubai’s economy grew and diversified, the amount of paperwork required to regulate industry mushroomed.

“Simple processes were getting ever more complicated. It was becoming clear there needed to be a giant solution to streamline growth from government processes,” said Bishr. “Governments believed for centuries they were achieving their objectives by fulfilling these transactional roles, which were done through a heavy reliance on manual processes and unnecessary labor and paperwork.”

Government-run Smart Dubai is leading the emirate’s blockchain strategy. Last year, it identified over 20 government use cases for blockchain that have advanced to the proof-of-concept phase.

“Once these are successful, we will roll them out across the city. These cases include daily life experiences, such as leasing or renting property, registering a student in school, obtaining a medical license, and more,” said Bishr.

Smart Dubai believes blockchain can create thousands of private-sector business opportunities in myriad sectors including real estate, health care, transport, energy, retail and financial services. Globally, the blockchain technologies market will be worth $20 billion in 2024, up from $315 million in 2015, according to Transparency Market Research.

Dubai wants to create a homegrown blockchain industry, with this year’s second Smart Dubai Global Blockchain Challenge attracting more than 200 applications from around 85 cities that showcased their best blockchain solutions that can support Dubai in implementing its strategy.

The top 17 entrants were flown to Dubai to present their proposals at the Future Blockchain Summit. In all, this year’s applications covered 53 industries.

“The idea behind this challenge is to stimulate ideas and to support startups to implement their ideas, putting them on a platform where they meet other government entities who want to use blockchain,” said Bishr.

“Several startups who came here last year for the summit have now established their company here and are working with government entities to implement their blockchain solutions.”

Dubai is working with open-source blockchain platform Hyperledger, plus Consensys, which builds programs on the Ethereum blockchain for public and private sector organizations. Consensys, whose clients include GlaxoSmithKline, has opened its Middle East and North Africa headquarters in Dubai.

“We don’t want to be plugged into only one type of blockchain, so we don’t miss any important benefits of the others,” said Bishr. “We need to be an open city with an open standard that accepts any type of technology that will fulfil our needs.”

In May, IBM teamed up with three Dubai government institutions to launch the Dubai Blockchain Business Registry Project, which promises to simplify the process of setting up and operating a business, while Smart Dubai is in talks with IBM and Consensys about building a “plant farm” in the UAE that will host all Dubai’s blockchain applications, said Bishr.

Dubai Future Foundation, chaired by Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, launched the Global Blockchain Council in 2016. Today this has around nearly 50 members including du, Microsoft, Cisco, SAP and IBM.

Decoder

What is blockchain?

Feverish speculation in cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin brought blockchain into the public eye last year, but what exactly is it and why is it engendering such global excitement? According to Hyperledger, blockchain is cryptography-enabled distributed database with no central authority and no point of trust. “With blockchains, people can establish who they are and then trade items like money, stocks and bonds, intellectual property, deeds, votes, loyalty points, and anything else that has value,” a Hyperledger report said.