DUBAI-Developers of 101.2 million sf of retail space in the Middle East are relying on a massive rise in Chinese tourists to sustain the growth, Phil McArthur of Dubai’s Al Futtaim Group said.

McArthur, who is managing director of Shopping Centers and Commercial Real Estate at the Group, said that the Chinese outbound tourist market is expected to rise to 100 million a year by 2020. China has a population of 1.3 billion and its economy grew at 9% in 2005. He also told the International Council of Shopping Centers Industry Forum that Chinese tourists have one of the highest retail spends in the world, with an average of $175 a day.

“According to Retail International, Dubai’s retailers alone have to generate $8 billion in sales in 2009 to sustain the massive increase in shopping center space and retail activities. The lucrative outbound Far-East tourist markets will be an important source in achieving this”, McArthur added.

He went on to say that, with more than 101.2 million sf of retail expected to come on stream throughout the Middle East by the end of the decade, retailers are targeting a slice of the Chinese market. Developers are not only looking to Chinese tourists to sustain economic growth, but also to its retailers to take units. Dashang, one of China’s largest retailers and ranked 96th out of the top 500 Chinese companies, is looking to open a number of stores in the Middle East, McArthur said.

Last year, trade between the Gulf states and China totaled more than $30 billion, with the United Arab Emirates accounting for a third. Imports into Hong Kong from the Middle East grew from $3,473 million in 2004 to $3,800 last year.

“In just 10 years, the world’s most populous nation has established itself as one of the largest trading partners of the UAE. The UAE is the largest export market in the Middle East for China and the third worldwide after the US and Japan,” McArthur said.

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