Glittering gateway to the Gulf


In the last few years Dubai may have modified some of its more glitzy ambitions, but it remains an important market - and gateway - for a wide range of UK businesses. And it’s still awash with cash and opportunity.

Dubai's transformation from sleepy fishing village into high-tech metropolis within just a few decades has been astounding.  Today it leads the way for the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and stands out as the premier business and communications hub for the region, as well as a gateway to the Middle East and North Africa.

Oil plays a far less prominent role in Dubai than it used to. From a peak of 410,000 barrels/day in 1991, production has fallen back to between 50,000 and 70,000 barrels/day, and now accounts for just four per cent of GDP. Reserves are likely to be exhausted within the next twenty years.

With this in mind, more than a decade ago Dubai made the decision to diversify its economy through trade, tourism and property development. Now known as the "shopping capital of the Middle East", Dubai also boasts some of the world's most remarkable luxury properties, including the world's tallest building (Burj Khalifa), the world's first seven-star hotel (al Burj), and the Palm Islands.

Around 85 per cent of Dubai's 2.5 million inhabitants are non-indigenous and English is widely spoken in business circles. More than 200 UK firms have a presence there, and British ex-pats number around 120,000.

Annual trade between Dubai and the UK is worth around £9 billion, and the UAE as a whole is Britain’s sixteenth biggest overseas market.

Classified by the Department for Business and Trade (DBT) as a high growth market, Britain’s principal exports to Dubai include telecommunications, power generation equipment, electrical goods, transport equipment, office machinery, home and consumer goods. Many of these are re-exported to Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Nearby Jebel Ali is home to the world’s largest man-made port, with 63 deep-water berths and excellent warehousing facilities. An expansion of the port is underway which should bring handling capacity to 22.1 million TEU in 2018.

Dubai has developed more than 20 "free zones" to attract foreign investment, with benefits including full foreign ownership, 100% repatriation, zero import-export taxes, and more.


Telephone one of our specialists on 0845 0347200 or email for advice.

Exporting to the Arab World? Apply online for your Certificates of Origin here.