Dubai tourism: Impressive!

The Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa in Dubai recently made CNN's list of the 25 most impressive mankind engineering achievements from around the world - and foreign visitors are traveling to Dubai in e

Dubai tourism: Impressive!

The Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa in Dubai recently made CNN’s list of the 25 most impressive mankind engineering achievements from around the world – and foreign visitors are traveling to Dubai in ever increasing record numbers to experience a taste of the future.

The Dubai Department of Tourism in the United Arab Emirates released their first half of 2013 tourism statistics.

It shows an 11.1 percent increase in visitor numbers. Accommodation revenue increased 18.6 percent to US$3.19 billion.

More than 5.5 million tourists visited Dubai in the first half of 2013, representing an 11.1 percent year-on-year increase, indicating that Dubai is on the way to achieving its Tourism Vision for 2020. The first half visitor number results, released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) this week, show increases across all key indicators, including hotel establishment guests, hotel and hotel apartment revenues, room occupancy and average length of stay.

Announced earlier this year under the directive of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and spearheaded by DTCM, Dubai’s Tourism Vision for 2020 sets out how the city will double its annual visitor numbers from 10 million in 2012 to 20 million in 2020.

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General of DTCM commented: “The figures for the first half of 2013 are extremely encouraging and indicate that we are on the way to achieving our Tourism Vision for 2020. Our strategy is to position Dubai as a foremost destination for both leisure and business travelers by continuously evolving our broad and diverse tourism offering, and attracting visitors from a range of source markets, including targeting a new generation of first-time travelers from emerging markets. The increase in visitors from each of our key source markets is particularly encouraging, with a number of these markets showing particularly strong growth, including the GCC countries, China, India, Australia and many countries in Europe.”

Visitors and source markets

Guest numbers across all hotel establishments (hotels and hotel apartments) in the first half of the year reached 5,583,379, an 11.1 percent increase on the 5,027,223 in the first half of 2012. Dubai’s top 10 tourism source markets remained the same as those for the first half of 2012, with some slight changes in positioning, and reflect the diversity of visitors who are attracted to the city. Saudi Arabia, India, UK, USA, Russia, Germany, Kuwait, Oman, China and Iran made up the top ten for January to June 2013.

The United States maintained its position as the fourth-largest source market to Dubai with more than 250,000 visitors from January to June 2013. Despite already being Dubai’s primary source market, Saudi Arabia experienced the most growth, with visitor numbers swelling by 31.6% to 710,472. Australia (ranked 13th) also recorded a sizeable rise in visitor numbers, with growth rates of 24.3 percent reflecting the increased flight volume resulting from the partnership between Emirates Airline and Qantas, formalized in April. The Netherlands entered the top 20 source markets for the first time, at number 20, with a 17 percent increase in visitors.

Guests from the world’s two most populous nations, China (ranked 9th) and India (ranked 2nd), continued to show strong increases, with visitors from both markets up by 15.8 percent buoyed both by the growth in the emerging middle class and first-time international travelers, and by targeted destination marketing campaigns led by DTCM and its overseas offices, and tourism sector partners.

“North America continues to be a strategic priority for DTCM, among Dubai’s largest source markets and a region with substantial opportunity for growth,” said Alba Hotchkiss, Director for North America. “Through the second half of the year, we will continue to showcase the world-class attractions and cultural richness of Dubai through targeted campaigns and leading industry events, positioning the city as a destination of choice among U.S. and Canadian travelers.”

Hotel occupancy and length of stay

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The occupancy rate for hotel rooms and hotel apartments saw steady growth during the first half of the year. Hotel room occupancy averaged 84.6 percent over the six month period, up 2.8 percent from 81.8 percent in the first half of 2012, while the occupancy rate for hotel apartments was 85.8 percent, up 6.5 percent from 79.3 percent in H1 2012.

This increase in occupancy gains greater significance when viewed against a backdrop of the increased availability of hotel rooms – 16 new hotel establishments have opened since June 2012, bringing the number of establishments to 603 and adding 5,484 rooms to the Emirate’s offer, which now totals 81,492: a 7.2 percent increase since the end of H1 2012. Hotel openings during this period included the JW Marriott Marquis, Oberoi Hotel Dubai, and JA Ocean View Hotel, all of which broaden Dubai’s hotel offering.

In the first six months of the year, the average length of stay across hotels and hotel apartments was 3.89 days – a rise on the average 3.82 day stay in H1 2012. Increasing the length of stay has been identified as a key driver of tourism growth across Dubai within the Tourism Vision for 2020.

Hoteliers can also take encouragement from the figures indicating the busiest months for guest visits. The month of June 2013 saw the third highest levels of hotel guests, after January and March, indicating the success of Dubai’s positioning as a summer tourism destination, particularly for travelers from across the region.

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri added: “The growth recorded in the first half of the year is on target for our medium-term plans, and most importantly, it is sustainable. We’re seeing continued growth in the quantity and breadth of hotels and hotel apartments designed to meet the increased demand from travelers; and the recently introduced changes to the hotel classification system provide greater clarity for both operators and tourists. We’re also continuing to see the benefits of Dubai’s focus on the events and festivals sector – with huge gains being made in the summer months in particular thanks to a coordinated and concerted effort from both public and private sectors to develop and promote our seasonal attractions.

“We must also recognize the importance of our city’s world-class infrastructure in ensuring we are able to continue to grow. Dubai is now home to the world’s second-ranked airport in terms of traffic, another achievement made during the first half of this year – and we are the home of two thriving airlines – Emirates and Flydubai – which by continually expanding their portfolios, are critical contributors to our tourism success.”

Hotel revenues

Revenues for hoteliers and hotel apartment operators saw significant growth – with total first half revenues reaching US$3.18bn up by 18.6 percent. Total guest nights also recorded similarly impressive rises, up 13.1 percent to 21,715,848 from 19,209,037 – or more than 2.5million additional guest nights from January to June 2013 when compared to the first six months of 2012.

Festivals and events focus

In terms of events, Dubai hosted some of the world’s top acts in the first half of the year including Justin Bieber’s first concert in the Middle East, Cirque du Soleil and the all-star line-up of Amr Diab, Shamma Hamdan and Hussain Al Jassmi as part of the du world Music Festival. Events such as the Dubai Shopping Festival, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Dubai World Cup, and Summer Is Dubai, including Dubai Summer Surprises, have all contributed towards the growth in visitor numbers. The integration of Dubai Festival and Retail Establishment – creators of Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Summer Surprises and Modhesh World – and Dubai Calendar into DTCM, will strengthen the coordinated approach to creating, attracting and marketing a year-round program of events and festivals.

Dubai’s status as the region’s leading Meetings Incentives Conferences and Events (MICE) hub has also played a central role in boosting first half visitor numbers. Major business events held during the first six months of 2013 include Arab Health, Gulfood, GITEX Shopper, Arabian Travel Market, and Intersec.

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