Despite a tough year, Dubai's airport still tops Abu Dhabi's

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The Independent Travel

Despite a turbulent year on the economic front and losing much of its credibility to its neighbor Abu Dhabi, Dubai has proved that it can still pack a tourism punch with the release of its airport's passenger figures for last year.

Dubai International Airport announced that 2010 was a record year for passenger traffic, with some 47.2 million people passing through the airport, a rise of 15.3 percent on 2009.

In Abu Dhabi, which has invested heavily in promoting itself as a more cultural and varied tourism destination than Dubai, the main airport handled only 11 million passengers, up 12 percent.

The continuing rapid growth of Dubai International Airport appears to have vindicated the decision to build Al Maktoum International, a huge new airport which is scheduled to open to passenger flights in March this year.

It also underlines the growth and rivalry of the countries' respective flag-carriers, Emirates (Dubai) and Etihad (Abu Dhabi), whose hub-based operations account for a sizeable proportion of passengers at both airports.

This week, Etihad announced the launch of Essential Abu Dhabi, a major drive to underline Abu Dhabi's attractiveness as a tourism destination.

The promotion, run in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, allows visitors to access offers from hotels, tour operators, dining outlets, shops, adventure parks, cultural attractions and sports facilties on presentation of their Etihad boarding pass.

Free stopover nights will also be offered to the millions of passengers transiting through Abu Dhabi International in the near future, Etihad said.