A record 15.79 million tourists visited Dubai in 2017
Dubai expects no dip in visitors number in the immediate aftermath of Expo 2020 Dubai, according to Issam Kazem, the CEO of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTM).
In an interview with Arabian Business on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market, Kazem noted that Dubai’s stated aim of attracting 20 million tourists annually by 2020 is independent of the Expo, and pre-dates the announcement that Dubai would host the event.
This long-term planning, he said, separates Dubai from cities such as Barcelona, which experienced a decline in visitors for a number of years following the 1992 summer Olympics.
“We always looked for a sustainable model. So whenever we talk about growth numbers, we aren’t linking it to Expo 2020,” he said. “Expo 2020 will be above and beyond that, but our 2020 strategy was announced before the Expo bid was won.”
“The vision we had set was purely about driving visitation numbers of tourists to Dubai,” he added.
The current focus for Dubai Tourism, he said, is expanding visitor numbers from new markets, in addition to building on traditional source markets on which Dubai relied upon in the past.
“It was very clear to us that we need to go for a diversified market approach,” he said. “What we wanted to do is maintain numbers [in traditional markets] and try to go deeper, but at the same time put a plan in place to look at 2020 and after that as well.
“If you look at the campaigns we ran last year, we were in 44 markets approximately in 2017,” he added. “That gave us the growth that we needed in these newer markets as well. We’ve seen growth in Sweden, back-to-back growth in China, in Russia. We’ve really seen these other destinations take the lion’s share when it comes to percentage of growth.”
Kazem added that in the near-term Dubai Tourism plans to “leverage” changes to visa policies for incoming visitors to the UAE.
“We’re always looking for opportunities where we know that in one way, shape or form we can see potential for growth,” he said. “When we see steady growth in demand and numbers, that’s where we begin discussions to see how we can make it easier. The growth is actually before the visa changes happen, but that makes it easier for people to access Dubai.”
Additionally, Kazem said he believes that the three and four-star hotel segment will increase significantly over the course of the next two years.
“We have put incentives in place, with municipality fees, that encourage investment towards that sector. We knew that if we were going for a diversified market approach, there would be a demand not just for the five-star segment,” he said. “We have a healthy number [of three and four star] hotels in the pipeline.”
According to official figures, a record 15.79 million tourists visited Dubai last year, a 6.2 percent year-on-year increase in international overnight visitation.For all the latest travel news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.