This is an article from before Sept11
Branson expects Virgin Atlantic service to Dubai within year
British entrepreneur Richard Branson expects his airline, Virgin Atlantic, to start flying to Dubai within a year. Branson was ere to meet government officials as the first step towards establishing his Virgin group in the region.
Before leaving yesterday Branson said he had had discussions about setting up businesses here. "The principle one is Virgin Atlantic. As a result of the visit it is quite likely that we will start flying here within 12 months." He said General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Defence Minister, was "very encouraging". "He wants to see more competition and wants to see many more people from the UK and Europe coming here."
Branson said the first flights would be from London's Heathrow Airport. "We would look at one flight a day initially and try to build it from there. "I think there will be enough infrastructure to do one flight a day. But to go further there will need to be a lot more hotels built. But I hope we can fly two or three times a day within four or five years." In addition to scheduled flights, Branson is looking at Dubai as a holiday destination.
"There are some wonderful projects taking place in Dubai. I saw the Palm Island project today. It was very exciting to see the amount of hotels going to be created on the new reef."
The Palm Island project involves building an artificial island off the coast near the Dubai marina in Jebel Ali. The island, designed in the shape of a palm tree, will be the location for exclusive hotels and leisure facilities.
Branson expects Dubai to attract a lot more tourists because of its amenities, weather and the social scene. "My wife came and spent a week here, six weeks ago, and said what a wonderful place it was. It seems to have something for everybody."
Branson said he was impressed by the Dubai Internet City and that it would be a good place for the headquarters of Virgin Atlantic. "They were encouraging. It is certainly something which we'll explore. And it's very impressive how quickly they've managed to create something from nothing. We wouldn't have any difficulty in persuading people to work there.
"I think, in time, a number of our businesses would work here. Soft drinks would be one. The health and fitness clubs would be another. And possibly financial services, music and a megastore. There are a number of areas which we can look at. However, the first project will be the airline."
Branson described Dubai as the largest entrepreneurial company in the world. "The people I've met believe in what they're doing and they're completely committed. "There's a vision which has been set for them by those who are running the country. And they've all been working enormously hard to fulfil that vision."
This Article is post Sept 11
Virgin puts off plans to start Dubai flights
Dubai |By Anupa Prathap Mathew | 09-10-2001
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British billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson has postponed plans by over a year for his airline, Virgin Atlantic, to start flying to and from Dubai, as the terrorist attacks in the U.S. last month have badly hit the aviation industry.
Branson was in Dubai yesterday for the launch of the first Virgin Megastore at Deira City Centre, the first step towards establishing his Virgin Group in the region.
He said: "It is unlikely that we'll fly in the immediate future to and from Dubai, as the airline industry has been suffering the past few months.
"It will not happen in the present climate but, hopefully, things will be better again in nine months" time or so.
Branson had announced in March this year that daily Virgin Atlantic flights between Dubai and London will commence by March, 2002.
"The airline industry, especially those that fly across the Atlantic, are suffering. About 75 per cent of our business is trans-Atlantic. If we are lucky, we will still launch in Dubai by the end of next year but not before that."
He felt that for the airline industry to recover at the earliest possible from this slump, the current international political crisis has to resolve to some extent and people encouraged to take flights.
"We hope the world is a better world in six months' time," Branson noted.
"Lots of people are feeling uncomfortable about flying and, therefore, airlines are having to reduce capacity. The same happened when the Gulf War took place and, quite quickly after the war ended, everything came back to normal".
Despite the current slow-down in the tourism sector, Branson expects Dubai to attract a lot more tourists because of its amenities, weather and the nature of the emirate.
"I think that Americans (as tourists) are very fickle people and with a crisis at home, it is going to affect tourism. But if there is any country in the Middle East that they should feel safe about coming to, it is here (Dubai).