Dubai Tourism chief hails performance during 'turbulent year'; says on track to lure 20m annually by 2020
Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) said on Tuesday that the emirate attracted 14.9 million overnight visitors in 2016, up 5 percent on the previous year.
Officials said in a statement that they are firmly on track to meet the target of attracting 20 million annual tourists by 2020.
Dubai Tourism said the strong performance came despite a "particularly turbulent year" across the world as the city continued to grow its share of outbound travel market despite three of its largest source markets witnessing "unique disruptions".
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) 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 percent, with Saudis topping the list.
On a regional level, Western Europe followed closely as second highest demand driver for travel to Dubai, accounting for 21 percent of the 2016 total, followed by the UK and Germany.
The latest data showed that India brought in just under 1.8 million overnight tourists, up 12 percent, while Pakistan also featured in the top 10 markets, delivering 607,000 tourists.
Dubai Tourism said expectations on growth from India remain high for 2017 with even stronger bilateral ties being forged between the UAE and India, highlighted by the visit of Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince.
With 540,000 Chinese tourists last year, China dominated the demand from Asia, firmly cementing its status as a top 10 market, and is predicted to strengthen its contribution in light of the visa exemption policies that came into force in November.
The Americas collectively brought in just short of 1 million overnight travellers, led by the United States while Russia, CIS and Central European markets accounted for about 5 percent of the overall tourism volumes to Dubai in 2016, led by recoveries from both Russia and Ukraine.
The former delivered a particularly resilient comeback with 240,000 visitors, up 14 percent and is expected to spike now that Russia has become the latest entrant on the list of 47 countries exempted from UAE entry visa requirements, as of this month.
The African region saw a 7 percent decline in travellers to Dubai last year while the Australasia region dropped 9 percent.
Helal Saeed Almarri, director general, Dubai Tourism, said: “2016 was another milestone marker for Dubai’s travel sector, as we rallied strong, and ramped up the momentum to significantly outpace the four-year global industry average by double... Dubai has cemented its ranking as the fourth most visited city in the world, critically delivering the highest value to the domestic economy with our number one ranking in terms of spend per tourist compared to any other competitor destination."
He added: “With an expensive dollar, we are focused on innovative value creation and superlative experience delivery as fundamental to future growth. In this, we not only expect to drive volumes from the stronghold countries by identifying and further developing niche segments, but also seek to activate frontier markets that offer considerable potential for growth."
He said the recent addition of a number of theme parks in the emirate would "dramatically raise" the family-attractiveness of Dubai.
Almarri added: “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, especially considering the global headwinds we have faced in last year, as we remain in the top four most visited cities in the world."