Africa Middle East Dubai riding a tourism wave By Felicity Long / January 14, 2013 Share 1 -- Dubai, a name synonymous with luxury, is riding a tourism wave, according to recent figures from the destination's department of tourism and commerce marketing. The emirate is expected to draw 8.8 million international visitors in 2012, which would make it the world's eighth most-visited city. A total of 27.9 million passengers were served at Dubai Airport between January and June, a record for the facility, and hotel and apartment bookings in Dubai from January to June totaled 170,452, up from 154,180 over the same period in 2011. To accommodate all these visitors, the city is focusing on hotel openings and upgrades. Pullman Dubai Deira City Centre Dubai, for example, formerly the City Centre Hotel, is expected to complete the first stage of its rebranding in third quarter 2012. The 317-room property will feature four dining venues and Spa and Fitness Area. Upgraded meeting facilities will be completed during phase two. The JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai, set to open in December, will be situated in the city's business district and will feature 684 rooms and 120 suites as well as a Saray Spa Fitness Center and Health Club and meetings facilities. The InterContinental Dubai Marina is set to open by the end of in 2013 with 132 guestrooms and 196 InterContinental Residential Suites. The property will feature eight restaurants and bars, a night club and meeting facilities. One of the emirate's big tourism draws each year is the 18th annual Dubai Shopping Festival, Jan. 3 to Feb. 3. The festival, which attracts about 3 million visitors to the city each year, offers entertainment as well as discounts at some 1,200 retail outlets. Visitors can enter daily drawings for high-end cars, watch fashion shows and sports events by day and stay to watch the fireworks extravaganzas and concerts at night. The most popular attraction is the famous illuminated water feature at the Dubai Mall, said to be so large it can be seen from space. There is a three-night Dubai Shopping Festival package available at four five-star hotels: the Asiana Hotel; the Melia Dubai; the Auris Plaza Hotel; and the Metropolitan Hotel. Good from through Feb. 5, the package is priced from $450 per person, double, and includes accommodations, airport meet and greet, transportation to the shopping outlets and some special events, like a dinner cruise. For more on the festival, visit www.dubaishoppingfestival2013.com.