DUBAI, 23rd July, 2017 (WAM) -- His Highness Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum added, "Continuous improvements in the routes, capacity, frequency, quality of service, and competitiveness of air and sea access brought 15 million overnight visitors to Dubai during 2016, up 5 percent compared to 2015. This growth is especially good compared to the 4 percent growth in global tourism, and the decline of 4 percent in the Middle East tourism sector, according to the World Tourism Organization. Large investments in travel, tourism, leisure and hospitality sectors will continue to attract more visitors, in line with our strategy to welcome 20 million visitors by 2020."The GCC, India, UK and Germany, the traditional source markets, account for 40 percent of Dubai's total visitors. Average spending per visitor increased to AED8,658 in 2016 from AED 8.252 in 2015. Total spending grew by 7.6% reaching AED126 billion, while the average length of stay per visitor was 7 days.

His Highness added: "Nearly 47 contracts worth over AED11 billion are set to be awarded in 2017 for projects at the Expo 2020 site alone. The Public-Private Partnership Law passed in 2015 has further stimulated greater private sector involvement in Dubais construction market."Trade accounted for 28% of Dubais GDP in 2016 followed by Transportation and Storage at 12 percent and Financial Services at 11 percent. The local tourism sector grew by 11 percent in 2016, and is expected to record further growth in the coming years, growing at 5 percent and 5.1 percent in 2017 and 2018, respectively, Sheikh Ahmed explained.

The Real Estate sector is projected to grow by 4.3 percent and 3.8 percent respectively in 2017 and 2018, while the manufacturing sector is anticipated to grow by 3.3% and 4.1% this year and next, underpinned by the Dubai Industrial Strategy. "Dubai is playing a major and increasingly sophisticated role in regional and global value chains through transport, distribution, marketing services and R&D " added Sheikh Ahmed.

The Transportation Sector will also be a key driver for construction sector growth as large investment projects are moving forward, including the Etihad Rail project, the Dubai Metro extension project and the expansion of the container port in Jebel Ali capitalising on Dubais role as a major logistics hub between three continents and its geographical location that links major trade routes.

The UAE climbed 13 places in the World Bank Doing Business Report between 2014 and 2017 and now stands at 26 among 190 economies and 1st in the Arab region. The Global Entrepreneurship Index, which measures the health of the entrepreneurship ecosystems in 137 countries annually, placed the UAE 19th in the world and again, first in the Arab world.

For his part, Sami Al Qamzi, Director General of Dubai Economy, said the stable, transparent and healthy macroeconomic environment, highly developed infrastructure and strong institutions continue to provide the bedrock for a higher, more diversified and sustainable growth path for Dubai.

"We are well under way to achieving the vision of Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum , of transforming Dubai into a city of happy, creative and empowered people. We seek to reach the number one rank in Doing Business by 2021 and be in the top 10 most competitive countries in the world in the next four years," said Al Qamzi.

"We are applying an innovative vision and strategy - of facilitating business, improving service efficiencies, creating new investment opportunities, and encouraging entrepreneurship. Dubai is building strong foundations of a globally competitive and sustainable economy and society," added Al Qamzi.

While the domestic trade sector was the chief driver of the emirates impressive GDP growth in 2016, tourism, real estate and manufacturing will dominate economic activity in the years ahead, Al Qamzi said referring to the latest economic outlook published by Dubai Economy.

"The economy of Dubai grew by 2.85 percent in real terms in 2016 when global GDP growth stood at 2.4 percent only. More importantly, Dubai has emerged as a major player in the world economy and enjoys a stronger position as a global hub and one of the top five international centres for trade, transport, finance and tourism. Looking ahead, real economic growth in Dubai is expected to reach 3.1 percent in 2017 and 3.6 percent in 2018, accelerating Dubais transformation into a knowledge economy," Al Qamzi concluded.

Copyright Emirates News Agency (WAM) 2017.