Dubai: Sunshine, Luxury Hotels, Tax-Free Shops

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NEW Y0RK -- Dubai's tourism promotion slogan tells travelers to "Decide on Dubai," a command that increasingly is being heeded by clients seeking a destination with year-round sunshine, a collection of luxury hotels, sporting facilities, tax-free shopping and gold buying galore.

Dubai, the second-largest of the United Arab Emirates, has invested its petroleum wealth and commercial know-how in a substantial visitor infrastructure intended to appeal to its expatriate community, business travelers and the international leisure market.

In the U.S. market, "Dubai has found its opening niche as a port call for international cruises, and cruise lines have doubled their scheduled stops this year over last," according to Charles Heath, North American director of Dubai's Department of Tourism Marketing.

According to Heath, Cunard was the first to use Dubai as a hub port, and it has selected the Emirates as the starting port of the inaugural sailing of its Awesome Arabia cruise in 1999.

In addition, the QE2 and Royal Viking Sun call at Dubai, as will Sea Goddess II on its maiden voyage this October.

Radisson Seven Seas has four voyages scheduled to make port calls in October and November, and, starting in October, Dubai will be added every spring and autumn to the line's repositioning Song of Flower cruises between the Mediterranean and Thailand.

Also in October, Star Flyer, the flagship of Star Clippers, will add Dubai to its repositioning itineraries.

According to Heath, the North American market also is being courted through U.S. tour operators.

He said he hopes operators will expand their lineups to include Dubai, and capitalize on what he called "an already successful push," with meeting planners.

Heath noted that, effective April 16, Malaysia Airlines was slated to inaugurate thrice weekly nonstop flights between New York and Dubai. As planned, eastbound service will operate Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, returning on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Mondays.

The Emirates' success -- particularly with Europeans who come for sun and fun -- "has sent demand for beachfront rooms soaring," Heath said, adding that several new properties on the Arabian Gulf are filling that demand.

Among them is an entry from Ritz-Carlton, which has chosen Dubai for its debut in the Middle East. This summer, the chain will open the Ritz-Carlton Dubai on a 1,000-foot stretch of Jumeriah Beach, opposite the marina and Emirates Golf Club.

Its 130 rooms and 11 suites will have ocean views, and a Ritz-Carlton Club will offer a private lounge, dedicated concierge and five complimentary food and beverage presentations daily. Other facilities will include two restaurants, a spa and two pools.

The Ritz-Carlton Dubai also will have a full-service business center and 598 square feet of meeting space.

The Jumeriah Beach Hotel, which opened last November, is a 26-story seaside property with 600 rooms facing the sea. The hotel's Pavilion Marina and Sports Club consists of a gym, saunas, massage rooms, hot tub, plunge pool and a steam room. Final plans call for six restaurants featuring international cuisines. There also will be two beachside cafes, a jazz bar and a pool bar.
Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing
Phone: (215) 751-9750 or (310) 752-4488

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Tourism Dept. To Operate Desert Lodges

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- This destination is putting the accent on ecological and cultural tourism with the development of two desert lodges.

The country's department of tourism was granted permission to take over the 54-room Hatta Fort, a resort hotel located an hour from Dubai. The hotel offers chalet accommodations at the foot of the Hajar mountains.

Plans call for remodeling the property into a living bedouin village, with guest quarters fashioned after traditional Arab houses. The aim is to educate visitors about regional traditions, wildlife, geology and culture.

Also included are plans to develop a wildlife sanctuary, a recreational lake and a mountain cable car.

Outside the city, Emirates Airlines is developing the Al Maha Resort, which would become the United Arab Emirates' first ecotourism resort. The lodge-style property, located on a 3,000-acre desert site, will have 25 rooms.

The carrier plans to dedicate 98% of Al Maha's land to establish a wildlife reserve where the fauna and flora of the desert will be reintroduced, protected and propagated. The Al Maha is expected to open late this year.

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