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Dubai sees surge in Gulf visitors

Numbers soar 79% as authorities attribute increase to the summer festival

Image Credit: Megan Hirons Mahon/Gulf News
Tourists at the reception desk of the Atlantis on Palm Jumeirah. Dubai has seen a marked increase in the number of tourists from GCC countries due tothe ongoing Dubai Summer Surprises festival.
Gulf News

Dubai: The number of GCC visitors to Dubai rose by 79 per cent between June 15 and July 2 compared to the same period last year, according to Dubai's General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA).

The GDRFA attributes the rise to the Dubai Summer Surprises festival, which is underway at malls and shopping centres in the emirate.

It also points to the emirate's benefits regarding visa regulations, transport infrastructure and hotel options, as well as a special team called Tasaheel that has been tasked to cater to the demands of the tourists.

"It is our endeavour to provide the highest level of services to tourists and facilitate their entry into Dubai. This culminated in the creation of a full-fledged team named Tasaheel to assist visitors to Dubai," said Brigadier Obaid Bin Surour, Deputy Director of the General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs.

Brigadier Bin Surour said the fees for tourist visas to Dubai are among the lowest in the world. A one-month tourist visa costs just Dh220 while GCC visitors pay only Dh185.

Colonel Khalifa Mattar Mubarak, Director General of Port Affairs, said the GDRFA had a staff of 1,700.

He added that they had attended workshops in security, customer service and detection of fraud.

Colonel Mubarak also said that the department was gearing to launch an electronic visa service for GCC residents which would allow them to apply for visas online and receive application status updates on their mobile phones. He said the electronic visa will facilitate easy entry into the country through the UAE's 100 e-gates.

Hoteliers contacted by Gulf News were upbeat about tourism from other areas of the GCC this summer. Nasser Shams, director of sales and marketing at the Emirates Grand Hotel, said that the hotel received 60 per cent of its visitors from the GCC.

"The nationality breakdown of the visitors is 35 per cent Saudis, mainly from Riyadh, 15 per cent Qataris and 10 per cent Kuwaitis," said Shams.

Meanwhile, Wael Al Behi, executive assistant manager at the Ramada Downtown Dubai, said, "The GCC represents 20 per cent of our total guests. The No 1 feeder from the region is Saudi Arabia, followed by the UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman."

Al Behi explained that tourism in Dubai will witness a busy summer this year. "We are expecting a busy summer from the GCC market due to the holiday season. The occupancy forecast is slated to rise to 85-90 per cent," Al Behi said.

Habib Khan, general manager of the Arabian Courtyard Hotel and Spa in Dubai, said that guests from the GCC form 10 per cent of hotel occupancy.

"We are working aggressively to increase the share of the GCC market up to 20 per cent at our hotel. The guests are from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman respectively," he added.

Iftikhar Hamdani, executive assistant manager at the Ramada Hotel and Suites in Ajman, said that the hotel has an 18 per cent share of GCC visitors.

Mousa Al Hayek, chief operating officer at the Al Bustan Centre and Residence, said: "The occupancy is doing well and we have noticed a very good improvement compared to last year. The DSS attracts families from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman. School holidays also have contributed to increasing hotel occupancy."

Mohammad Hassan, front office manager at the Fujairah Miramar Al Aqah Beach Resort, said that the percentage of tourists from the GCC has increased during this season.

"The percentage of GCC guests at the hotel increased to a great extent and amounted to 15-20 per cent of the total number of visitors to the hotel during this summer," said Hassan.