Dubai hopes to attract 20 million visitors in 2020

Friday 19/02/2016
The Emirates Airlines terminal at the concourse in Dubai International Airport.

London - Visitors to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates seem not to be shaken by events engulfing the Middle East as the emir­ate continues to attract evermore tourists from around the world.

Figures released by Dubai’s De­partment of Tourism and Commerce Marketing show Dubai attracted more than 14.2 million overnight visitors in 2015, a 7.5% increase over 2014.

“Last year was a very strong year for Dubai’s travel sector, achieving double the global industry growth levels and our international visita­tion hitting 14.2 million, which firm­ly positions us as the fourth most visited city in the world,” Dubai Tourism Director-General Helal Saeed Almarri said in a statement.

“The year 2015 was volatile for travel globally, as we have all wit­nessed a range of disruptive factors, ranging from slackening economic growth in Asian and European mar­kets to currency fluctuations across the world. Yet if Dubai is to hit its 20 million visitors per year target in the next five years, we must deliver a threshold 7-8% annual growth consistently, which has put even greater emphasis on strong sector-wide collaboration.”

Despite a sluggish economy and a strong US dollar constraining Dubai’s competitiveness, Western Europe was the second highest regional contributor to visitor vol­umes, bringing in nearly 3 million tourists, reflecting 6.1% growth.

The United Kingdom was among Dubai’s top three source countries with 11% growth, accounting for nearly 1.2 million visitors. Germa­ny also stayed in the top ten with 7% growth generating more than 460,000 visitors.

South Asia was the next largest re­gion by volume, sending 2.3 million visitors, reflecting a 21.7% increase versus 2014. India dominated the region, becoming Dubai’s number one source market for the first time sending in more than 1.6 million tourists. The country was the sec­ond fastest growing market with a 26% year-on-year growth, followed by Pakistan, which ended 2015 with 11% growth and 513,000 visitors.

More than 1.6 million visitors were from the wider Middle East and North Africa region, represent­ing a 1.3% growth, a strong outcome in the face of heightened regional disturbances.

Iran delivered a reliable 6% in­crease, with much of the remaining volumes attributable to Egypt and Jordan, each registering robust 15% growth versus 2014.

“Positive growth across stalwart markets and emerging countries helped offset negative trends in the consolidated Russia, [Common­wealth of Independent States] and Eastern European region, which saw a 22.5% decline in travellers, as well as the Australasia region, which dropped 6.3% year on year,” the tourism release said.

“Markets such as the GCC, India, [United Kingdom] and Germany, which are our traditional strong­holds and continue to deliver over a third of our tourism traffic, will always be a critical priority as there is already a proven credibility of the Dubai destination offering,” Almarri was quoted as saying.

Dubai International airport also became the world’s busiest airport. Traveller numbers increased more than 10% in 2015, dealing with 78 million passengers in 2015 com­pared to 70.5 million in 2014. The airport topped London Heathrow, which saw 75 million passengers in 2015.

Known for its luxury and culture, Dubai has unique plans to attract more tourists. A 360-degree pool will feature in the planned St Regis hotel on the Palm Jumeirah, set to open in 2018. The pool will border all four sides of the hotel, 210 me­tres above ground. The hotel will be in the Palm Tower and connected to the new Nakheel Mall.

However, Dubai will not only be known for its skyscrapers but is a cultural hub. There are plans for Dubai to be an open-air museum.

“Every city in the world has mu­seums but with the concept of an open-air museum, the space is not limited and we want the people to decide what they want to see.

It will be an interactive experi­ence with illustrations, and the city will be an open canvas [for artists],” Saeed Mohamed al-Nabouda, acting director-general at Dubai Culture and Arts Authority, told Gulf News.

Dubai is also expecting more than 1 million medical tourists by 2020. In 2015 it posted an increase of 18% over 2014 in the sector, surpassing its growth target of 12-15%.

The emirate appears to be on track to reach the targets set out under its Tourism Vision, including attracting 20 million visitors a year by 2020.