Leaders at the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) have confirmed that the demand for commercial licences continues to soar in the emirate. The financial and business hub connects the region's emerging markets with Europe, Asia and the Americas and it seems that the DIFC is going from strength to strength. New figures have found that the total number of companies operating in the Centre grew to 899 in the first half of 2012 - a six per cent rise on the corresponding period in 2011. In addition to this, 90 commercial licences were also issued during the six-month period, compared with just 64 in the first half of last year, which represented solid growth of 41 per cent. The UAE is being increasingly seen as an important region in the financial world and this is reflected in the uptake of office space in the DIFC. Around 98 per cent of all units were occupied between January and June 2012 - up from 95 per cent last year. Meanwhile, DIFC-owned retail space remained consistent at 96 per cent. According to H E Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair - chairman of the board of directors of DIFC Authority - the future is very bright for the organisation. "The strong principles on which DIFC is founded - effective regulation and a dynamic business environment - position DIFC well to continue its development as a world financial centre," he remarked. "There are promising opportunities for significant expansion of DIFC both in terms of the number of companies operating here and the range of activities in which they are engaged," he added. Dubai's importance in the global business world continues to be highlighted by the huge number of international expos and conferences being held across the emirate each year. Hamad Mohammed bin Mejren - CDME executive director of business tourism - recently stated that Dubai's strong infrastructure, good air links and wide selection of hotels mean that it will continue to host major meetings in the future and it is no wonder that so many companies are setting up bases in the UAE.