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Dubai reports huge upturn in hotel guests

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Fireworks light up Dubai's famous seven-star Burj Al Arab Hotel. Photo by DTCM.

Up to the 60s, if you wanted to spend the night in the Emirate of Dubai, you might have wound up sharing a tent with a local goat herder. There were no hotels in this spot on the Persian Gulf back then, nor much of anything else. That all changed in 1966 when black gold – oil – was discovered here.

Fast-forward to today, and Dubai has a whopping 611 hotels, all told with more than 84,500 rooms. What's more, over 11 million guests stayed in them last year, up by an impressive 10 percent over 2012.

The figures, just released by Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, shows the emirate (one of the seven United Arab Emirates) is well on its way to achieving its goal of 20 million annual guests by 2020. To handle that growth, officials say, Dubai expects to add 140,000 to 160,000 more rooms to its hotel inventory over the next six years.

A spokeswoman for DTCM noted that hotel revenues were up by a shade over 16 percent last year. Guest-nights shot up, too, by 11 percent.

DTCM Director General Helal Saeed Almarri said the agency's strategy is to position Dubai as “a foremost destination for both leisure and business travelers.”

The emirate's top five sources of hotel guests are (in descending order) Saudi Arabia, India, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia. Some half-million guests from the United States bunked down in Dubai last year, including a good number at the iconic seven-star Burj Al Arab Hotel.

DTCM is the principal authority for the planning, supervision, development and marketing of Dubai’s tourism sector, among other responsibilities.