Dubai: The government of Dubai remains confident of hitting 20 million visitors by 2020, a target it set in 2013 that came under some pressure last year, according to Dubai’s top tourism official.
Visitor numbers to Dubai grew by just 0.8 per cent in 2018, reaching 15.92 million compared to 15.79 million in 2017.
“We set targets for ourselves that we know are challenging. But Dubai has always achieved its targets, and we really, truly believe in that philosophy,” said Issam Kazim, the CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM).
“And that’s why we want to make sure that the message is clear,” he said, adding: “We’re going to keep on doing what we’re doing, and we do what we can within our control, and we make sure that the industry supports us, and we support the industry, and for us it’s about achieving the targets set in our sights.”
According to the official, one of the more significant external challenges outside of his control is the UAE’s peg to the dollar.
This, he said, was weighing on Dubai’s visitor levels.
“One of the factors [for last year’s low growth] is us being pegged to the dollar. That is not to the benefit of the people travelling in to Dubai,” Kazim said.
While the offers and discounts at shopping malls in the emirate were becoming more attractive, he said, they were being “negated” for tourists travelling from a country with a weak currency compared to the stronger dollar.
These include places such as the UK and Russia, two historically important source markets for tourism in to Dubai.
For some, visiting Dubai felt increasingly expensive, Kazim added.
“[But] these are things that we cannot control,” he said. “Hoping for favourable conditions is not something Dubai has ever done.”
To offset this pressure, Kazim said that Dubai Tourism was working closely with trade partners, airlines, and fellow government entities to continue to drive holidaymakers to the emirate.
One such measure was lobbying the government to allow visa on arrival for tourists of different nationalities, in particular Indian visitors.
“The authorities have been extremely supportive,” he said. “They’re working on it actively to make sure it becomes easier and easier.”
Kazim also said that Dubai Tourism was working closely with Emirates airlines to develop a stopover programme, in which travellers with a layover in Dubai would be able to explore the city with a preset itinerary, giving them a taste of the emirate.