Dubai's economy expanded 4.1 percent from a year earlier in the first half of this year, official data showed on Monday, indicating the Gulf's main trade and financial hub is holding up well in a weak global environment.
Foreign trade, including re-exports, rose 11.4 percent in the first half, according to Reuters calculations. That was roughly half the growth rate seen a year ago; in addition to global conditions, international sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program have hit Dubai's trade with that country.
Nevertheless, Dubai's gross domestic product growth in the first half was faster than 3.4 percent recorded in 2011. A major reason was booming tourism.
Hotel guest numbers in the emirate jumped 9.6 percent to 5 million in January-June, while hotels and restaurants saw a 16.1 percent surge in their business, said Arif Obaid al-Muhairi, executive director at the Dubai Statistics Center.
"These indicators are moving towards growth because of the diversity of Dubai's tourism product," he said in a statement. "That helps attract more tourists, which reflects positively on demand in related activities and improves performance of the local economy."
Wholesale and retail businesses, which make up nearly a third of Dubai's GDP, grew 3.8 percent in the first six months of 2012. The real estate and business services sector rose 1.5 percent.
The Dubai housing market, where prices and rents crashed in 2008-2009, has been recovering gradually but bank lending in the United Arab Emirates remains sluggish.
Muhairi said the Dubai government's latest plans for huge tourism and retail developments would help boost tourist numbers and contribute to economic growth.
Dubai's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum recently announced a plan to build a massive complex that would include 100 hotels, the world's largest shopping mall and a park larger than London's Hyde Park.
"We see a strong growth outlook for Dubai next year, supported with a continued favorable outlook for consumption and a gradual pick-up in investment," said Monica Malik, chief economist at EFG-Hermes in Dubai. "We see Dubai continuing to access foreign funding, which remains vital both for supporting the investment program and for the debt management position."
The government has said it expects Dubai's GDP to rise more than 4 percent in 2013.