Dubai on track to achieve 2020 tourism vision

Dubai vision ... foremost destination for leisure and business travellers

MORE than 5.5 million tourists visited Dubai in the first half of 2013, representing an 11.1 per cent year-on-year increase, indicating that Dubai is on the way to achieving its Tourism Vision for 2020. The first half visitor number results, released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) at the end of July show increases across all key indicators, including hotel establishment guests, hotel and hotel apartment revenues, room occupancy and average length of stay.

Announced earlier this year under the directive of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and spearheaded by DTCM, Dubai’s Tourism Vision for 2020 sets out how the city will double its annual visitor numbers from 10 million in 2012 to 20 million in 2020.

Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of DTCM says: “The figures for the first half of 2013 are extremely encouraging and indicate that we are on the way to achieving our Tourism Vision for 2020. Our strategy is to position Dubai as a foremost destination for both leisure and business travellers by continuously evolving our broad and diverse tourism offering, and attracting visitors from a range of source markets, including targeting a new generation of first-time travellers from emerging markets. The increase in visitors from each of our key source markets is particularly encouraging, with a number of these markets showing particularly strong growth, including the GCC countries, China, India, Australia and many countries in Europe.”

Guest numbers across all hotel establishments (hotels and hotel apartments) in the first half of the year reached 5,583,379, an 11.1 per cent increase on the 5,027,223 in the first half of 2012.  Dubai’s top 10 tourism source markets remained the same as those for the first half of 2012, with some slight changes in positioning, and reflect the diversity of visitors who are attracted to the city. Saudi Arabia, India, UK, USA, Russia, Germany, Kuwait, Oman, China and Iran made up the top ten for January to June 2013.

Despite already being Dubai’s primary source market, Saudi Arabia experienced the most growth, with visitor numbers swelling by 31.6 per cent to 710,472. Australia (ranked 13th) also recorded a sizeable rise in visitor numbers, with growth rates of 24.3 per cent reflecting the increased flight volume resulting from the partnership between Emirates Airline and Qantas, formalised in April.  The Netherlands entered the top 20 source markets for the first time, at number 20, with a 17 per cent increase in visitors.

Guests from the world’s two most populous nations, China (ranked 9th) and India (ranked 2nd), continued to show strong increases, with visitors from both markets up by 15.8 per cent buoyed both by the growth in the emerging middle class and first-time international travellers, and by targeted destination marketing campaigns led by DTCM and its overseas offices, and tourism sector partners.

Commenting on these markets, His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri said: “Saudi Arabia, China and India are markets which DTCM has put significant focus on, as we believe they provide substantial opportunities for growth. With regards to Australia, the partnership between Emirates and Qantas has clearly had a highly positive impact and DTCM has been working closely with both airlines to maximise the opportunities the partnership provides to increase the amount of visitors from both Australia and the other markets which the partnership opens up.”

The occupancy rate for hotel rooms and hotel apartments saw steady growth during the first half of the year. Hotel room occupancy averaged 84.6 per cent over the six month period, up 2.8 per cent from 81.8 per cent in the first half of 2012, while the occupancy rate for hotel apartments was 85.8 per cent, up 6.5 per cent from 79.3 per cent in H1 2012.

This increase in occupancy gains greater significance when viewed against a backdrop of the increased availability of hotel rooms – 16 new hotel establishments have opened since June 2012, bringing the number of establishments to 603 and adding 5,484 rooms to the Emirate’s offer, which now totals 81,492: a 7.2 per cent increase since the end of H1 2012. Hotel openings during this period included the JW Marriott Marquis, Oberoi Hotel Dubai, and JA Ocean View Hotel, all of which broaden Dubai’s hotel offering.

In the first six months of the year, the average length of stay across hotels and hotel apartments was 3.89 days – a rise on the average 3.82 day stay in H1 2012. Increasing the length of stay has been identified as a key driver of tourism growth across Dubai within the Tourism Vision for 2020.

Hoteliers can also take encouragement from the figures indicating the busiest months for guest visits. The month of June 2013 saw the third highest levels of hotel guests, after January and March, indicating the success of Dubai’s positioning as a summer tourism destination, particularly for travellers from across the region.

Revenues for hoteliers and hotel apartment operators saw significant growth – with total first half revenues reaching Dh11.62billion ($3.18 billion) up by 18.6 per cent. Total guest nights also recorded similarly impressive rises, up 13.1 per cent to 21,715,848 from 19,209,037 – or more than 2.5million additional guest nights from January to June 2013 when compared to the first six months of 2012.

Dubai’s status as the region’s leading Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events (MICE) hub has also played a central role in boosting first half visitor numbers. Major business events held during the first six months of 2013 include Arab Health, Gulfood, GITEX Shopper, Arabian Travel Market, and Intersec.