Dubai welcomes record 14.9 million visitors

Dubai’s tourism industry enjoyed a record year in 2016, welcoming 14.9 million overnight visitors.

The figures from Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing show that visitors rose 5 per cent year-on-year compared to 2015, and an impressive 4-year CAGR of eight per cent (8 per cent), since His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the emirate’s 2020 tourism strategy. This performance trajectory which reflects twice the global travel industry growth of circa four per cent (4 per cent) over the same period, as forecasted by the United Nations World Travel Organisation.

The emirate’s ambitious 2020 strategy targets 20 million tourist arrivals within the next three years, and Dubai backing up those goals with money.

Beyond accommodation, new additions to Dubai’s landscape in the last year include the opening of attractions like IMG Worlds of Adventure, the world’s largest indoor theme park, and Dubai Parks and Resorts, the region’s largest integrated theme park resort. Additionally, 2016 witnessed the opening of Dubai Opera, a world-class entertainment venue, and CITY WALK, the city’s trendiest new retail destination.

The last year has also been one of political and wider disruption, making Dubai’s ranking as the fourth most visited city in the world more impressive.

The Gulf Cooperation Council remained the number one volume generator for tourism to Dubai, delivering the highest share of visitor volumes for 2016, with a total of 3.4 million, up 5 per cent over 2015. In terms of country-specific performance, KSA spearheaded the contribution with over 1.6 million visitors, a 6 per cent increase, with Oman next in line accounting for over 1 million travellers. Kuwait and Qatar retained their top 20 status, registering an annual growth of 2 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

“The effectiveness of our three-pronged approach is evidenced by the encouraging 13 per cent) growth in volumes from South Asia led by India, despite the demonetisation and cash pressures facing the market. Similarly, KSA remained the dominant market within the GCC, bringing first time and significant repeat travellers to Dubai. Another case in point is our tenacity in the UK, post the Brexit announcement and the ensuing over 20 per cent currency devaluation, where we delivered a commendable 5 per cent visitation growth.”

Highlights of 2016 include the massive 20 per cent boost in Chinese visitors, crossing the half million mark for the first time with 540,000 tourists arriving in Dubai. Russian tourist traffic also enjoyed a resurgence, with growth of 14 per cent.
“Both countries are only expected to further accelerate through 2017 thanks to the UAE’s recent implementation of visas-on-arrival for all their citizens,” Almarri summarised.

His Excellency Almarri concluded: “Infrastructure, accommodation, air connectivity, access and policy enablers continue to be the facilitating levers that ensure Dubai remains price competitive and hugely attractive for a broad range of global travellers. By consistently outpacing the global forecast for visitors, we remain extremely confident about the future outlook for Dubai.”