Viva Dubai: 'The Las Vegas of the Middle East', 'Dubai Vegas', 'Sun City without the sin', 'The New Nevada'?

Author:Jones, Rhys

WE HAVE ALL heard the comparisons between Dubai and Las Vegas countless times and most of us usually take them with a pinch of salt, which is fair enough when you look at the recent history of the two cities. In 1980, Las Vegas was busy celebrating its 75th birthday and had already pocketed over $3bn in annual revenues while Dubai had only just built the World Trade Centre, the only building of note on a barren Sheikh Zayed Road. A stark contrast indeed.

Fast-forward a quarter of a century and the picture is different, with the two cities battling it out to become the tourism capital of the world. Today however, and for the first time, Dubai seems to have an edge over its American rival.

Last year Dubai topped the world in the hotel occupancy stakes, with an average rate of 86%, according to a survey by research group Deloitte and Smith--ahead of hotel hotspots such as New York, Paris, Singapore and, of course, Las Vegas. The consultancy also revealed that in 2005 Dubai's revenue per hotel guest was the highest in the world, at $175.47, up 42.3% on the previous year.

At present, Dubai has 383 hotels with a total room capacity of 35,396, an increase of 5.9% from 2004. With a further 140 hotels and resorts containing some 34,000 rooms set to come on-line by 2009, it is clear that the once little-known emirate intends to consolidate its position as the new hotel capital of the world--at the expense of the self-crowned 'King of Hospitality', Las Vegas.

With Dubai breathing down its neck, Las Vegas probably thought it could at least hold on to the fact that it had the world's longest and most glamourous hotel boulevard, known simply as 'The Strip'. Not any more.

The roll-out of Dubai's $27.2m 'Bawadi' hospitality and tourism project in May signalled the emirate's intention to top Las Vegas once again. The project, which is being undertaken by local developer Tatweer, will see 31 hotels offering 29,200 rooms built along a 6.2-mile stretch of the existing Al Qudra road--significantly longer than Vegas' 4.5-mile strip.

The centrepiece of the Bawadi development will be what is slated to become the world's largest hotel, Tatweer's 6,500-room Asia-Asia property. As it stands, Asia-Asia is set to succeed Las Vegas' MGM Grand Hotel Casino, which is currently the world's largest hotel with 5,960 rooms, 52 two-storey skylofts, 29 private villas and a recently added 576-suite section. However, rumours abound that the MGM Grand has responded by giving the...

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