Dubai: Dubai will welcome 20 million visitors a year by 2020, doubling its annual visitor numbers from 10 million in 2012, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, said on Saturday, officially approving Dubai’s Vision for Tourism for 2020.

By 2020, Dubai will welcome 20 million visitors per year, and treble the annual contribution made by tourism to the city’s economy, according to the new tourism vision.

“We are aware that such goals are ambitious, but more important than ambition is realising these goals in reality,” Shaikh Mohammed said in a statement, adding that he is confident that the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) is capable of achieving what it aims for “given the previous accomplishments and the positive results attained”.

He added that tourism, however, is a broad service sector that one entity cannot solely be held responsible for its development.
“Therefore, it is important that other government departments and institutions share this responsibility and join in developing this sector in order to strengthen our macroeconomic capabilities,” he said, adding that he expects the private sector to play a similar role in supporting this goal.

“Our role at DTCM is to act as a facilitator of growth, harnessing the collective power of stakeholders in the city and deepening engagement with parties outside of Dubai, so that we deliver the vision,” said Helal Saeed Al Merri, Director General of DTCM.

Dubai was able to double the number of tourists from only five million yearly to ten million tourists a year during the past eight years.

Shaikh Mohammad said he firmly believes in Dubai’s ability to reach a substantial tourist influx in light of the fact that Dubai will “shortly witness the implementation of wide new range of projects representing new elements of attraction”.

According  Al Merri, new tourism projects are expected to drive Dubai’s tourism vision for 2020.

“Dubai has had a number of tourist projects launched. Going ahead, we will have more projects, for instance, a number of theme parks [in the works] and a larger zoo by Dubai government besides various retail projects. And then we have continuous renovation of our historic areas like Al Shindaga and Al Fahidi. I would expect over the coming years announcements on a lot more family projects,” he told Gulf News in an interview.

Developed by the DTCM under guidance from Shaikh Mohammad, the vision sets out how the city will both double its annual visitor numbers and increase the economic contribution of the tourism sector.

Early estimates from a study currently being conducted indicate that the current economic contribution is in the range of Dh100 billion.

According to the DTCM, the target of 20 million visitors will be achieved through a number of objectives including maintaining existing market share of the outbound tourism of all source markets, increasing awareness and consideration to visit in a number of source markets such as Latin America, China and the emerging economies of Africa, and lastly, increasing the number of repeat visits.

The year 2020 is also the year when Dubai, if it wins the bid, is expected to host the World Expo 2020.

Asked about DTCM’s vision for 2020 with regards to the Expo, Al Merri said that tourism growth targets are irrespective of Expo.
Meanwhile, as the visitor numbers grow, so will the number of hotels in the emirate, says Al Merri.

At present there are 80,000 rooms across Dubai’s 599 hotels and hotel apartments. “If we get the Expo, we need double the number of rooms,” he said.

In terms of revenue, Dubai hotels and hotel apartments accrued revenue of Dh18.85 billion (17.9 per cent growth over 2011).
Commenting on the projected increase in revenue, Al Merri said: “If tourists double, that doubles. But we are also looking at longer stays. So the hotel revenue would be more in the range of two-and-a-half to three times [the current revenue] due to longer stays and a combination of visitors.”

Elaborating on the potential role Expo will play in boosting Dubai’s tourism, Al Merri said: “It will be an opportunity for Dubai to showcase itself to the world and for the world to showcase in Dubai. What this will do is attract the world’s attention to Dubai and also help us improve people’s understanding of what we have to offer, and our brand.”

He added that Expo is not just the platform for Dubai but also a platform for the wider region including Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

Areas of focus

To widen the range of tourism offerings, DTCM has listed three key areas of focus:

First is position the UAE as the world’s leading family destination. DTCM said it will play a central role in coordinating the activities of industry and public sector partners to expand the existing attractions, events and experiences that cater to families, in line with Shaikh Mohammad’s statement earlier this year abut the UAE being the world’s leading family destination.

Second focus is promoting Dubai as an event destination, with the aim of moving from the regional events hub to a global events and entertainment destination.

As part of this, both the Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE) - organiser of festivals such as Dubai Summer Surprises and Dubai Shopping Festival — and Dubai Calendar, were recently integrated into DTCM.

DTCM said it would also continue to work closely with the Expo 2020 team to support and promote the Dubai, UAE bid to bring the World Expo to the MENASA (Middle East, North Africa and South Asia) region for the first time.

And third is to enhance Dubai’s status as a business destination. DTCM said it would work with the industry to improve the business tourism offer to make sure that Dubai is the easiest and most effective place to do business.