Burj Dubai to boost tourism in the emirate


The worldwide attention being focused on the opening of the Burj Dubai is likely to provide a much needed boost for the tourism industry in the emirate.

The Dubai government estimates that two billion people around the world will watch the inauguration of the world’s tallest tower live on January 4. The event also will reportedly be covered by some 400 representatives of local, regional and international media and news agencies.

Anticipation for the inauguration of the mega-project has been building for a number of years as the opening – which was initially set for the end of 2008 – has been pushed back several times. The chairman of Emaar, the tower’s developer, said in June 2008 that Burj Dubai would open in September 2009, nine months later than initially planned, but that date was moved back to December.

Then in November of 2009 the developer announced that the tower would open on January 4, 2010 to mark the day when Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai, took office four years ago.

Timing is key

The opening of Burj Dubai comes at an opportune time for the emirate, given the amount of negative attention it received when state-owned Dubai World announced on November 25 that it would seek a ‘standstill’ agreement from creditors.

It also follows a difficult year overall for the tourism industry in the emirate, which saw occupancies and revenues fall sharply, although revenue per available room in Dubai remains among the highest in the world.

‘The opening of the tower will definitely give a boost to Dubai’s hospitality industry,’ says Adrian Jonklaas, senior consultant at PKF – The Consulting House. ‘I don’t think there is anything like having a landmark development that you can label the world’s tallest tower.’

The skyscraper is the final piece of Downtown Burj Dubai, which will be a mega destination in its own right, he says. ‘First, you have the world’s tallest tower, with an observation deck that will be very popular. Properties like the Empire State Building in New York still receive hundreds if not thousands of visitors on a daily basis to the observation platform,’ he noted.

‘Then within the tower you have the high-profile Armani Hotel, which is a branded, designer hotel that will attract its own set of tourists. Add to that Dubai Mall, and the fountain, Souk Al Bahar, and several other hotels, and it all collectively forms a micro destination, which is a key of part of destination Dubai’s strategy.

‘Tourists need things to do, and part of programming Dubai is creating these types of micro destinations.’

Another icon

The tower also falls in line with the emirate’s strategy of building eye-catching, larger-than-life buildings and islands to capture the world’s attention. ‘It started with Burj Al Arab and the Palm, and this follows with Sheikh Mohammed’s vision to have these iconic projects,’ he said.

Jonklaas says the immediate impact of the tower will be that hotels, restaurants, and stores in Downtown Burj Dubai will enjoy above average business from the throngs who flock to see the new skyscraper. However, the good news for the emirate as a whole is that the tower is likely to be the world’s tallest building – and thus a huge tourist attraction – for a long time.

‘There are other projects in the pipeline, such as the Kingdom Tower in Jeddah, which potentially could overtake this, but building these super tall towers is not an easy undertaking,’ he noted. ‘They are very expensive and raise lots of engineering issues, and most of the projects that have been proposed have stalled. So we can enjoy having the tallest tower for the next five to ten years, at least, which will be a big plus for tourism in Dubai.’