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The Chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council, Gerald Lawless, will share his inside knowledge of building Dubai as a destination, as well as one of the world’s best-known luxury brands, Jumeirah Group, when he addresses the inaugural Asia Hotel and Tourism Investment Conference (AHTIC) in Colombo in November.

The former Jumeirah CEO, now Head of Tourism and Hospitality with Dubai Holding, Jumeirah’s parent company, has played a key role in the country’s phenomenal growth for nearly two decades.

Dubai’s overall expansion as a favourite tourist destination is just as impressive. Gerald says: “I remember in 1981 the Hyatt opened a hotel with 600 rooms and someone from the industry said, ‘now Dubai has seven five-star hotels – and that’s enough’.” It clearly wasn’t. There are now approaching 700 luxury hotels in the emirate with another 67 planned over the next 12 months.

Key to that expansion has been co-operation between government and the private sector. Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing built a strong rapport with hotel owners and other industry players, as a group, so issues like immigration could be dealt with quickly and efficiently. The development of Emirates Airline was crucial too, as was marketing at big international events, and the government’s commitment to building infrastructure to cope with the huge influx of visitors.