Tourism in the Middle East to get hotter in 2010

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The Independent Online

Hotels in the Middle East were the most booked throughout 2009, and despite some bad publicity for Dubai, things look bright for the area.

Lured by endless sunshine, luxury hotels and the chance of a business trip turned holiday, the Middle East is still an immensely popular area for tourism.

Rooms in the area were just over 61 percent full on average throughout last year, a far better performance than anywhere else in the world, said global accountancy firm Deloitte last week.

The trend was matched by constant growth for Middle Eastern airlines, which posted a year-on-year growth rate of 23.6 percent in January 2010 according to airline trade body IATA. Through 2009, passenger travel through the region grew 11.2 percent, although this was partially due to the growth of connections at Middle Eastern hubs.

Through 2010, this trend seems set to continue. Last year, the World Tourism Association predicted that Middle Eastern tourism in 2010 would rise by five and nine percent, the highest amount of any region globally. Its prediction appears to be founded - 51,515 new hotel rooms are likely to become available soon, according to hotel analyst STR.

Amongst these, the Armani Hotel Dubai is set to open in the Burj Khalifa on March 18, followed by a multi-million euro extension to the Dubai Ritz-Carlton set to begin in April. Kuwait city will also get its first InterContinental this year, whilst Doha will welcome its new luxury Renaissance Hotel (by Marriott) in June.

Alongside the hotels, air travel in the region is booming. Capacity and flights to the region have increased by over ten percent year-on-year through January and February, and new routes are planned by Air France and United as well as local stalwarts Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.

The capacity has facilitated - or perhaps been caused by - the growth of some significant events in the region. Both Bahrain and Abu Dhabi will host Formula One races this year, Abu Dhabi will also host the Red Bull Air Race, whilst Dubai is home to the Desert Classic golf tournament. And this week 152 countries are expected to take part in the IAAF World Indoor Championships in Doha, the biggest event in the athletics calendar, which begins on March 12.

It seems that, as the economy improves, tourism in the Middle East is set to get even hotter. Amongst all the statistics available for the region, this one sticks out the most - the average year-round temperature in the UAE is 22°C.

The Middle East's largest airlines

Hot hotels in 2010