The willingness to enjoy the best things in life makes the Russian expatriate and tourist contingency exceedingly good as a low key source of foreign direct investment.

According to retailers Russian tourists are one of the more active visitors to Dubai shopping malls.

Gulf News recently polled a number of retailers selling the Dh20,000 plus Vertu mobile phone to find out who was buying it. According to country demographics, visitors from Russia came first, closely followed by visitors from Saudi Arabia, then Kuwait and finally the United Arab Emirates.

The importance of the Russian market explains why the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) is making the country a focus.

Dubai not only wants to attract 15 million visitors to the country by 2010, it also wants to make sure they shop in the emirate's increasing number of malls, and enjoy all the facilities Dubai has to offer.

So far, so good. Dubai's efforts have paid off with the number of Russian tourists growing by 10.4 per cent last year, reaching 286,000, according to the Department of Tour-ism and Commerce's own figures.

There was also a 57.1 per cent increase (373,958) in Russian passengers passing through Dubai International Airport in the same period, as well as a 31 per cent increase in the weekly flights from Moscow, which now total some 38 flights.

The number of Russian tour operators featuring Dubai in their programmes has crossed the 600 mark.

To boost numbers further the Department of Tourism and Commerce and Alpha Tours, the Dubai-based ground handler, hosted the annual conference of Natalie Tours.

Natalie Tours brought 240 hand-picked top travel agents, from its network of 7,000, to the emirate.

According to Natalie Tours, Dubai has been attracting greater attention in the Russian and CIS markets for business and leisure.

The Russian traveller is attracted to Dubai as a year round destination that is safe and guaranteed to have sunshine virtually 365 days of the year, said the operator.