Flush with petrodollars, with oil prices consistently above $120 a barrel, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar have all embarked on aggressive hotel and transport development programmes as they seek to diversify their economies away from oil and boost revenues from the tourism sector.

In the United Arab Emirates, the direct contribution of travel and tourism to GDP is expected to hit $19.9 billion this year, or 6.1%, compared with US$16.6 billion, or 6.6%, in 2009, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council.

Some of the Gulf state’s major tourism infrastructure investments include the US$8 billion expansion of Dubai International Airport, as the emirate seeks to increase its capacity from 60 million passengers to 90 million by 2018 to become the world’s busiest airport.

Complimenting its airport expansion, Dubai added a second metro line last year to connect the city east to west and is scheduled to open a tramline in 2014. Meanwhile Abu Dhabi’s national carrier Etihad Airways continues to expand aggressively as the UAE capital continues to build its reputation as a tourist hub developing projects such as Ferrari World, an amusement park on Yas Island, and Saadiyat Island, home to the planned Louvre and Guggenheim museums.

Speaking at the annual Arabian Hotel Investment Conference 2012 (AHIC), which takes place in Dubai on 28-30 April at Madinat Jumeirah,

Chiheb Ben-Mahmoud, Executive Vice President and Head of Hotel Advisory, Middle East & Africa, at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels said, “Hotel revenues in the UAE are growing steadily despite the economic and financial uncertainties in Europe. GCC governments are cash rich and we see the UAE as a key hotel investment destination”.