Poll: Emirati tourists shun UK after attack

UK Minister for the Middle East expresseses sympathy for the three Emiratis injured in the attack in the London hotel.

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Most Emiratis no longer consider Britain their favorite tourism destination after the recent assault on three UAE sisters at a luxury hotel in central London, a poll showed Thursday. Meanwhile, a U.K. minister has expressed sympathy with the victims of the attack, saying the London police are handling the case as a priority.

The poll carried out by the UAE newspaper al-Roeya revealed that a strong 76.5 percent of Emiratis no longer favor travelling to Britain.

Germany now tops the list of favored destinations for Emirati tourists, according to the poll, followed by Singapore, Malaysia and Switzerland.

About 50,000 Emirates used to travel to Britain annually and there are more 170 flights every week between Britain and the UAE.

Spending by Emirati visitors reportedly exceeds the average tourist spending in Britain.

Emiratis spent $700 million in 2012, a sharp increase from the 373 spent in the previous year of 2011, according to al-Roeya. The UAE tourists also spend an average of $250 per night in Britain, the paper said, citing government tourism figures.

More than 23 percent indicated that a “slow investigation and meager security at the hotel made tourism in Britain dangerous and unsafe,” according to al-Roeya.

UK Minister for the Middle East, the Rt Hon Hugh Robertson, meanwhile, expressesed sympathy for the three Emiratis injured in the attack.

“I would like to express my personal sympathy for the three victims of the attack in London on 6 April. My thoughts are with the victims and their families,” he said in a statement

The minister said he had been in contact with UAE Deputy Foreign Minister Anwar Gargash “to assure him that this is a priority for the UK Metropolitan Police, and that the excellent co-operation between the UK and Abu Dhabi Police will continue.”

“Attacks of this nature are, fortunately, rare in London. We will do everything within our power to bring the perpetrators to justice,” he said.

London police sought Wednesday to quickly assert their control on the situation in a move that could limit the damage to London’s image as a friendly global tourism attraction.

Scotland Yard Police said they were holding four suspects accused of attacking the three Emirati women, Al Arabiya correspondent in London Mostapha Zarou reported.

Three men were being held and investigated on suspicion of attempted murder, and a woman on suspicion of handling stolen goods.

Zarou said the arrests were made in the north of the British capital, 36 hours after the attack was carried out using a hammer, leaving one woman in critical health.

The other two women are also in hospital, but their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening.

The police have 24 hours to investigate the suspects, a period that could be stretched to 36 hours before deciding to either bail any of them or press criminal charges.

Police said there had been no breach of security at the hotel. This was confirmed to Al Arabiya News by a hotel spokesperson.

The hotel is urging “anyone who may have seen a man act suspiciously in the hotel, possibly loitering, to contact the police,” the spokesperson said.

Detectives are scouring security camera footage to establish the movements of the victims and the suspects.

The attack on Fatimah, Uhoud and Kholoud happened at around 2:00 am in a room on the seventh floor of the Cumberland Hotel.

One Kuwaiti tourist who was questioned by the police as he was staying in the same hotel floor said: “What we heard is that there was a person who was following women to steal from them. This is what I can help with because other issues remain confidential with the police.”

The incident has also cast doubts over the hotel’s safety.

One British citizen said: “People will start worrying if they stay in this hotel, which is located in a safe area. This will also affect how people view London.”

Meanwhile, another Kuwaiti tourist said: “These kinds of incidents happen, and they don’t mean that London is a dangerous city.”

An Emirati tourist urged London authorities to tighten its security on all hotels, and make sure there were cameras

Father says intent was murder

The father of the three Emirati sisters said the perpetrator intended to kill them, according to a UAE-based daily.

Jaafar Nasser al-Najjar told Emarat al-Youm that although his daughters had valuable possessions in their hotel room, the attacker left without stealing anything.

Najjar said he did not know why the perpetrator wanted to kill his daughters, but hitting their heads with a hammer made his intentions clear.

Najjar told the newspaper his health had deteriorated after learning of the attack.

“I wish I could be among them, but I’m 70 years old and I can’t travel due to a spinal disc problem,” he said.