What did you witness last year regarding growth in Dubai?
We are seeing a clearer view of the economic cycle that has started in Dubai over 2014. The dynamism is different from the last time I talked to TBY. The driver for that is new economic activity taking place across all sectors, and especially the same ones we are into such as services, trade, and logistics. The financial sector, too, is playing a major role, with a good comeback from the management market and the IT sector. We are also seeing the effects of the push the government made last year with the smart city economy, the Islamic economy, and the green economy. All this is complemented by strong results coming from the tourism sector. For 2020, there have been up to 25,000 new rooms announced, the majority focusing on three- and four-star hotels. This is also complementing the idea of where Dubai is shaping itself to be. I think within the global market Dubai has proven its vision strongly, with its aim of being a global player and a global service industry center. It is interesting that this new cycle is preparing the foundations for the aviation industry, which has not been a player here up till now.
The realization of the smart city project could change the way people live and do business in the city. What is your take on the matter?
A lot of people think that the smart city project is just about IT. However, it is about better living and sustainable living. Indeed, at least 70% is about sustainability. IT is a component of the concept and something that enablers need to get to grips with, but it is also about a wider vision that will complement the residents of Dubai. Also, it will have an effect on both newcomers and visitors alike.
Which segment do you think will become the pillar of Dubai's Islamic economy?
Islamic finance and halal products are the first that come to mind. However, we are also seeing a development of the tourism sector here because it fits within the new tourism strategy and it is very much needed. There are investors already in the market for halal tourism. The concept of halal is simple, but how you take it to the next level involves the whole cycle of tourism development. For example, where do you put the hotel or the theme park so you take all the marks that the tourism developer wants and still make them profitable? I think this is a working scenario that people can make money out of.
Recent surveys show how investors coming to Dubai consider the lifestyle when making a decision. Why is this in your opinion?
I think it is about people's demands being higher. They want that more than before. So for an executive to decide on a location, he or she is going to consider comfort. Family will also be a consideration. And I think Dubai provides everything you may need. Rather than being an industrial-based economy, we are a service-based economy, and service-based economies mean that many people will come and live here, and 70% of their income will be pumped back into that economy. For example, we received a Portuguese software company that develops software for football games online, and the company started here one year ago and decided this year that it would move its whole operation to Dubai because the programmers are young and they like the lifestyle here and want to stay.