Byline: Sarah French
EVERY day 278 people take off to Dubai and beyond on Emirates' new service from Newcastle.
As the region's first long-haul service, it brings the Eastern world closer and the rate at which tickets are selling shows we've been waiting too long for a Dubai-bound flight. As passengers from our region head to the beach or the boardroom, every day an Airbus from Dubai lands back in Newcastle.
It is in this return service, bringing a new set of business people and holidaymakers into the region, where the real opportunity lies for the North-East.
According to Emirates president Tim Clark, the Arab-owned airline will help the region maximise these opportunities.
"Our record is that we create a market not just in the region we're serving or just in Dubai, but beyond. So suddenly Newcastle becomes part of the network mantra and it is marketed as a destination by us," he says.
"One of Emirates Holidays' primary operations is outbound travel. They look at regions and destinations, assess what is good, package it up and start selling it in the Middle East. It's then a question of how your stakeholders, NGOs and tour operators go out to markets and get people to come here.
"What I've seen here is a willingness and an enthusiasm to go out there and bring people in.
You have to sustain that energy. People want to go to new places and they want to go much further a field."
Vice-president for UK and Ireland Vic Sheppard, believes Newcastle could eventually become an airport to rival Heathrow.
He says: "Use Newcastle as a gateway to the UK. My job is to fill aircraft leaving the UK but there are other people all around our network who have the same task. They are the people you need to reach from a tourism point of view.
"Your tourism offices have to find the Emirates team and say 'this is what we've got' and make a partnership. Someone has to go out there, tell the story and make it a sexy product."
No doubt these words are music to the ears of those in the region's hospitality and tourism sectors who were among those at a packed meeting of the Entrepreneurs Forum which recently heard about the benefits of the flights.
Keith Longstaff, senior vice-president of commercial operations for Europe has more ideas on how the region can cash in on the benefits of Dubai-bound flights: "You need to sell products like education. You have wonderful universities and a town that young people want to play in. Go to the educational shows and promote this as a hub of education and learning.
It's an easy sell and it's another aspect of how you can bring wealth into the area."
With 86 different passenger destinations to market, Emirates can only do so much for Newcastle - the rest is up to the region. But the desire to help is genuine, the advice invaluable and the potential inspiring.
The region must also rise to meet the challenge. The lack of a major, regional conferencing facility, for example, is a gap which these objective observers spotted immediately.
Mr Clark says: "If you get 5,000 people coming to a convention the spend on the periphery is absolutely astronomical. There is a little bit of a hole in the North-East. We can't see why there isn't something like that on the drawing board."
It is not a problem experienced in Dubai, which is now a glittering metropolis where every sun-loving celebrity wants a home.
It boasts the world's only seven star hotel, the world's biggest mall, the world's biggest waterfront development and the world's fastest growing tourism market.
Sheikh Mohammed's ambitious vision for Dubai is now a man-made reality and the city's own airline has taken full advantage of its central location.
With Beijing, South Africa and Newcastle all under eight hours away, Dubai has fast developed into a new hub bringing far away destinations much closer to Europe. …