First Published: 2005-04-01

 
Dubai’s tourism, real estate drive shake Gulf
 

Qatar, Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait follow Dubai’s lead to liberalise tourism, real estate to stimulate their economies.

 

Middle East Online

By Fiona MacDonald - DOHA

Qatar will grant permanent residency to foreigners who buy property

Following in the footsteps of Dubai's mega tourism and real estate drive, Gulf states are pushing their own plans to lure visitors and open up their property sector to foreigners to stimulate their economies.

Dubai's bid to become the region's business and leisure hub to help compensate for depleting oil reserves has apparently set off a domino effect in the region where Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait have announced multi-billion dollar projects.

Affluent Dubai has launched several grandiose housing, entertainment and resort developments on artificial islands, three in the shape of palm trees and one resembling a world map.

Property yet to be built on at least one of the islands has been sold three times over, as investors across the Gulf Arab region seemingly brush off the threat of terror or instability.

Capitalising on a potentially lucrative market, gas-rich Qatar is in the throes of its first international real estate venture with The Pearl-Qatar, a 2.5-billion-dollar artificial island off its coast.

The initial phases of selling apartments on the development, which will include housing for up to 30,000 people, met an overwhelming response from regional and international investors, developers said.

The island, to take the shape of a bay eventually covering an area of four million square metres (43 million square feet) of reclaimed land, will boast luxury hotels and marinas. Foreigners who buy property on it will be granted permanent residency, as is the case in Dubai.

Hussam Abu Issa, vice chairman of Salam International Investment Company in Qatar, said the Pearl was the country's first unique project.

"The government is also trying to locate other areas where foreigners can buy property," he said. "It's the trend of government policy to encourage investment, and there's been a very positive response."

Qatar is building a 5.5-billion-dollar airport to handle up to 60 million passengers annually by 2020, while Dubai has embarked on a four-billion-dollar airport expansion project with the same target.

Since creating a tourism ministry last June, picturesque Oman is actively promoting itself as a Gulf destination.

"There's various projects in Oman to encourage more investments," said Mohammed Ali Said, the ministry's director general. "There's a master plan to develop a lot of areas."

Last year, the Omani government launched The Wave, an 805-million-dollar resort project stretching along miles of virgin beachfront just west of the capital Muscat, with 400,000 square metres (4.3 million square feet) of it to come from reclaimed land.

Some 400 kilometres (250 miles) from the capital in Ras Al-Had, the sultanate will next year start work on a multi-billion dollar eco-resort including an airport and houses open for sale to foreigners.

"There's no competition between us and the other Gulf states. We complement each other. Tourists can go shopping in Dubai and come here to see the real culture, tradition and heritage," Said said.

Tiny Bahrain is building its largest luxury residential, commercial and resort development, one of the kingdom's three major leisure and housing projects to encourage investment.

The 1.2-billion-dollar Durrat Al-Bahrain, or Rising Pearl, will consist of 13 islands and a range of facilities with 2,000 villas and 3,000 apartments available for sale to expatriates.

Due for completion by late 2009, it is expected to be one and a half times larger than the capital Manama and accommodate 30,000 residents and 4,000 visitors daily.

Bahrain's cabinet on Sunday approved additional areas in specific touristic regions where non-Bahrainis can own real estate.

Conservative Kuwait, where alcohol and discos are banned and hotels need permission to stage musical concerts, is also vying for a slice of the region's expanding industry, taking a first step by easing its rigid visa rules.

The emirate, which raises more than 90 percent of its income from oil, is attracting investors for a multi-billion-dollar project to turn its Failaka island into a major holiday resort. It is also mulling the idea of allowing foreigners to buy property.

 

Gridlocked streets of Saudi capital turn quiet for day of mourning

Obama vows to maintain pressure on Qaeda in crisis-hit Yemen

New violence as Egypt marks anniversary of 2011 revolt

Erdogan visits war-torn Somalia amid tight security

Gaza announces plans to ready sea port for international travel

Barrage of rockets rains down on Syria capital

Egypt extends Sinai state of emergency by three months

Syria ambassador to UN to head government team in Moscow talks

Qatar court tells US family to decide on fate of alleged killer

Gunmen kidnap Libya deputy foreign minister from hotel room

Yemen Huthi rebels fire in air to disperse Sanaa protest

Islamist websites confirm death of Ansar al-Sharia chief in Libya

World leaders head to Saudi Arabia to offer condolences

Iran parliament starts to draft law on nuclear enrichment hike

Mauritania prison siege ends with captives freed

Syria opposition demands 'radical democratic change'

Tunisia turns the page on political Islam

Iran FM pays rare visit to Saudi Arabia after King's death

Signs of uprising against Huthis in streets of Sanaa

Israel prepares for any retaliation by Hezbollah

New Tunisia PM forms cabinet with no Islamists

Saudi Arabia buries King Abdullah

Britain allowed Libya to intimidate political opponents

Gul calls to Erdogan for greater democracy

Israel Arab parties join forces ahead of snap election

Mubarak sons freed pending retrial

Hagel: US has killed thousands of jihadists

Iraq asks for more weapons to fight IS threat

Half-brother Salman replaces late Saudi King

Yemen leader resigns, leaves country in deadlock

King of Saudi Arabia dies at age of 90, Crown Prince Salman declared new ruler

Europe pleads for more nuclear talks allowance

Israel PM accepts invitation to address US Congress

Huthis maintain tight grip on Yemen capital despite deal

Anti-IS coalition talks focus on threat of homegrown jihadists

Wait for Hezbollah reaction to Israel air strike on Golan ... next week

French flag burnt in Baghdad protest

Mubarak sons freed pending corruption retrial

Saudi postpones flogging of blogger again

Syria opposition in Cairo to discuss Moscow talks

Iran supreme leader urges Western youth to examine Islam

Syria opposition government receives US financial aid

Immigrant youth feel less equal in France of equality, fraternity

Kerry leads anti-IS coalition talks in London

Yemen president bows to Huthis demands