There has been a 45 per cent increase in the number of UAE tourists visiting Monaco in one year, according to Michel Bouquier, President of Monaco’s Tourism and Convention Authority.

“The average spending by UAE tourists in Monaco reached €840 (Dh4,536). This figure is more than double the global average that stood at €340,” he said.

Bouquier made these comments while speaking to Gulf News during his recent visit to Saudi Arabia. He also said he has plans to visit Dubai in February next year.

Bouquier attended several functions in Riyadh and Al Khobar organised to promote Monaco’s tourism during his three-day visit.

The first visit to Saudi Arabia by the top Monaco tourism official was also aimed at strengthening cooperation between the kingdom and Monaco in the tourism sector.

Bouquier said that tourists from the Middle East had spent 40,000 nights at hotels in Monaco, of which the UAE tourists’ share was 6,000 nights.

He said that there are over 2,600 hotel rooms in this tiny state.

Among these, about 90 per cent are in the five- and four-star categories. “Therefore, we target mainly affluent tourists. The tourism sector generates about 15 per cent of the national income,” he said, drawing attention to the fast growth in all sectors of the national economy.

“Recreational tourism makes up 81 per cent of tourism activities while conferences and exhibitions represent the remaining 19 per cent,” he said.

Bouquier said Saudis comprise about 40 per cent of tourists from the GCC who have visited Monaco this year. “There has been a steady increase in the number of Saudi tourists visiting Monaco year after year. There was an increase of 19.7 per cent in the number of flights coming from Saudi Arabia during the first half of 2011 compared with the same period last year,” he said, adding that Monaco does not have a ban on Islamic dress.

He also noted that Saudi investors also attach great significance to this investment-friendly state.

Bouquier noted Monaco received as many as 1,000 Saudi tourists last summer. “Accompanied by families, they spent about 6,000 nights at the hotels. On the other hand, we received 6 million tourists from other countries who spent only one night there,” he said.