DUBAI // Breaking the world record for the largest fireworks display will showcase the emirate as a destination and help to attract tourists, experts say.
The extravaganza marked “the end of a momentous year for Dubai in which the undeniable highlight was the UAE’s winning bid to host World Expo 2020”, said Dr Ahmad Belhoul, chief executive of Strategy and Tourism Sector Development at Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
He said there was no doubt about the benefits the New Year’s Eve shows would bring.
“The pyrotechnic displays at Palm Jumeirah, Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and at Dubai Festival City all have a part to play in ensuring that Dubai is established in the minds of residents and visitors as one of the most exciting and entertaining destinations in the world in which to see in the new year,” Dr Belhoul said.
With the record-breaking display being televised around the world, he said the celebrations would “not only attract thousands of visitors to Dubai and make a significant contribution to our travel and hospitality sectors, but will also … help to attract new travellers to our city for generations to come”.
Stephan Schupbach, general manager of the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray hotel on the Palm, said the fireworks display was “fantastic” for the man-made island and the emirate. The hotel had 1,200 guests and 2,000 visitors at its various outlets to see in the new year.
“Dubai is an expensive destination but as long as we can continue to offer these kinds of events, it all helps,” Mr Schupbach said.
One family had travelled from San Francisco for just three days for the spectacular, he said.
More than 78,000 fireworks had to successfully explode to beat the record set by Kuwait last year. The crescent of the Palm alone had more than 100,000 fireworks set up, plus 300,000 spread across the island and the World Islands for the six-minute show.
Though Guinness World Record officials confirmed it was indeed the largest fireworks display in the world, its team was inspecting the sites on Wednesday to do a final count of how many fireworks exploded.
But not everyone was able to enjoy the show. Elizabeth McAllister, a resident of the Palm, encountered chaos. She bought a ticket to Sandance at Atlantis before the record attempt had been announced and in hindsight she wishes she had not.
“I drove off the Palm to go to the American University of Dubai to get the shuttle bus. I boarded the bus at 8 and by 11, was still sitting on the bus and hadn’t even passed my own house,” she said. “We’d driven 5 kilometres. We knew we weren’t even going to make it in time for the fireworks so we just got off the bus and walked to my house, but the fireworks were half an hour late so everyone had already done with celebrating by the time they went off.
“If I’d realised this was going to be happening the same night as Sandance I’d never have bought a ticket.”
The event’s choreographer, Phil Grucci, said safety was of paramount concern, which led to the show being delayed.
“There were a few traffic snags on the Palm so we erred on the side of safety and there were other shows going on at the time anyway, so we decided if we couldn’t do it at midnight we’d do it at the next available slot, 12.30, to allow for the complications to clear out.
“The first objective was that not only was it entertainment but it was safe for the people of Dubai.”
Though it took 10 months of planning, it will take only 11 days for 200 pyrotechnicians to dismantle the display.
“It was a great honour to produce what we produced last night and it’s well deserved for the people of Dubai,” Mr Grucci said.
Fireworks were also a highlight of the celebrations in Sharjah. At Al Majaz Waterfront, a laser clock counted down to midnight, with a huge display highlighting the evening for tourists and residents.
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