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.


Assad warns Russia failure may result in ‘destruction’ of whole Middle East

Tunisia President in Egypt for talks on regional issues

In rare step, Israel bars Palestinians from Jerusalem Old City

UAE to invest $35 billion in clean energy by 2021

Sohaib El Oussani reveals backstage of Europe Orient Documentary Film in Asilah

Tunisia joins anti-ISIS coalition to ‘obtain information’

ISIS gunmen shoot dead two Egypt policemen in Sinai

Trump prefers to 'sit back' and see what happens in Syria

Police arrest suspected ISIS recruiters in Spain, Morocco

Turkey, EU strike plan to stem flow of migrants

Iran nuclear review panel gives conditional nod to flawed deal

Erdogan urges Putin to reconsider air campaign in Syria

Iran expels Bahrain envoy in apparent retaliation

First hajj stampede bodies arrive in Iran from Saudi Arabia

US urges Libya rivals to move forward with peace deal

Israeli fire wounds at least 10 Palestinians in West Bank

UAE holds election for advisory council

Erdogan faces tough talks in meeting with EU leaders

Russia airstrikes target ISIS infrastructure facilities in Syria

Powers condemn targeting of Syrian opposition by Russia

Turkey accuses Russia of hitting Syria rebels to bolster Assad

Palestinians kill Israeli couple in West Bank shooting

Russia again strikes Assad regime's foes

Iran backs Russian military strategy in Syria

S&P: Gulf banks' net earnings set to slide

Russia confirms new air strikes on targets in Syria

12 killed in Ankara bus stop crash

Syrians, Afghans clash in German refugee centre

South Sudan's peace deal means little in Koch swamps

Trump: If I’m elected, Syrians go back home!

Iran says 464 dead in Saudi hajj stampede

Saudi, Iran agree to repatriate dead pilgrims

Abbas: Palestinians no longer feel bound by past agreements with Israel

Russia, US to hold ‘de-confliction’ talks on Syria

Three conditions as France voices concern over Russia involvement in Syria

Iraq Kurdish forces recapture land from ISIS jihadists

Tunisia buries Sousse gunman under strict security cordon

Iran diplomat missing after hajj stampede

Six days after hajj tragedy, Iran-Saudi tensions escalate

For first time in history, Palestinians to raise flag at UN

Finland freezes asylum decisions for Iraq, Somalia refugees

UK Labour Party ready to support Syria airstrikes, with conditions

Iran Foreign Minister under fire over ‘Obama handshake’

Parliamentary and religious support as Russia launches airstrikes in Syria

Assad regime strikes kill 27 civilians in central Syria