By Sarah Townsend
Emirate's tourism officials has set themselves a target to attract 20m visitors a year by 2020
A total of 13.2 million tourists visited Dubai in 2014, representing a year-on-year increase of 8.2 percent, according to official statistics revealed on Sunday.
Year-on-year growth was significantly higher than the global average of 4.7 percent, and reflects ongoing investment in leisure and tourism as Dubai seeks to attract 20 million visitors by the year 2020, according to the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
The figures were announced during a press conference to mark the launch of this year’s Arabian Travel Market – the 22nd edition of the popular trade show.
A full document – Dubai Annual Visitor Report – is to be issued later in the week.
Unlike previous tourism statistics compiled from data on guests staying at Dubai’s hotels, this year’s 13.2 million figure is a measure of all international visitors travelling to Dubai and staying for at least one night, both in hotel accommodation, holiday rentals and onboard cruise ships.
This year’s statistics also reveal double digit growth in visitors from emerging economies including China, Nigeria and Brazil, as well as several Eastern European nations – a result of the easing of UAE visa policies for 13 European Union member states in March 2014, DTCM noted.
Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of DTCM, said: “Dubai has strategically sought to ensure a fragmented source market approach, mitigating risks associated with overreliance on any specific region or geography.
“Fifty-five per cent of last year’s visitors came from our top ten source markets, the majority of which saw sustained growth, and there was healthy acceleration in many emerging feeder geographies.
“We will continue to work with our partners to further diversify our markets and leverage opportunities for growth, with one example being maximising the potential of Eastern European markets, from which we have already seen a positive result from the easing of visa regulations last March and subsequent flight launches to the region by Emirates and flydubai.”
Speaking at the ATM press conference on Sunday, DTCM chief executive Issam Abdul Rahim Kazim said the biggest global competition for tourism in the year ahead would come from China, and possibly Africa, as well.
“We cannot afford to lose sight of our unique offer,” he told delegates, insisting that Dubai “is a slightly different offer to Egypt”.
Family tourism – in particular, travel by high net worth families across the world – remains a relatively untapped opportunity in Dubai, Kazim added, and this will form a key plank of Dubai’s strategy for attracting 20 million visitors by 2020.
DCTM cited figures from Thomson Reuters that show family travel accounts for more than 12.5 percent of the $1.7 trillion global tourism market, and is projected to grow at around five percent up to 2020.
The emirate has already sought to expand its offering in the sector, with ambitious plans underway for Dubai Safari Park, Dubai Opera House and Dubai Parks & Resorts’ triple theme offer including Legoland Dubai, Motiongate and Bollywood Parks Dubai – the chief executive of which is interviewed in Arabian Business this week.
The 22nd edition of Arabian Travel Market starts on May 4 at the Dubai World Trade Centre.