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Flights open new market

OF the 800,000 passengers travelling internationally through Perth airport for the first half of 2002, less than 200 came from the United Arab Emirates city of Dubai.

Figures from Westralia Airports Corporation show that the number of arrivals into Perth from the UAE was just 177 in the first six month of 2002 – up from 31 during the corresponding period in 2001.

With Emirates commencing direct flights from Dubai this month, the expectations are that it will bring in around 1,000 visitors a week on the four flights per week.

The service is estimated to generate $47 million per year in tourism dollars and up to $30 million in trade.

Emirates is also pushing the Middle East as an exotic destination for Western Australians.

WA Tourism Commission future markets manager John Bowen said tourism was expected to climb substantially but slowly.

“It’s not going to happen overnight but it’s going to be extremely seasonal,” he said.

“They [Arabs] tend to fly for only two months over summer when it is extremely hot. Emirates has really started at the back end of the season. July and August are expected to be the two strongest months.

“Anyone with a bit of money living in the Middle East wants to travel.”

Arabs spend an estimated $15 billion each year on international travel.

Historically they have gone to the United States, however, since the terrorist attacks those numbers have fallen away, providing opportunities for new destinations such as Australia.

But Mr Bowen believes Perth is kidding itself if it thinks it will become the only destination of choice for Arab travellers to Australia.

“The Gold Coast in Queensland will remain ingrained in the Arab world as the place to go,” he said.

“They all end up in the Gold Coast where the kids can treat themselves to the theme parks, they can be right on the beaches and the women can go shopping.

“Perth will be maintained as a stop-over market.”

A steady flow of South Africans working in the Middle East is also likely on look-see-determine tours in search of possible work and living opportunities. Many will also come to visit the estimated 60,000 South Africans already living in WA.

The WA Government has committed $1.65 million over three years to support the new route.

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