The iconic Burj Al Arab stands out in the night. Dubai’s ultra modern cityscape makes many visitors question whether it is an Arab city. Some projects however, have captured Arabia’s culture and heritage, such as the Madinat Jumeirah and Old Town in the Burj Dubai district. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai welcomed a record over 10 million visitors in 2012, marking a 9.3 per cent jump from the previous year, boosting hotel revenues by 18 per cent to Dh18.82 billion in the period (Dh15.97 billion in 2011), the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said in a statement on Thursday.

It added, that the total number of “10.16 million” visitors included guests in hotel establishments (hotels and hotel apartments) and cruise passengers.

“This continual year-on-year growth is due to a number of factors including the coordinated city-wide destination management strategy; world-class infrastructure; and our location at the crossroads of East and West,” Helal Al Merri, the recently-appointed Director General of DTCM, said in a statement.

The growth was also backed by the new hotel openings in the emirate during 2012, with the number of hotel establishments increasing from 575 to 599. The number of hotels alone reached 399, compared to 387 in 2011, with 57,345 rooms (compared to 53,828 rooms in 2011).

And a number of new properties are slated to open during the course of this year, including Sofitel Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa and The Oberoi Dubai on Shaikh Zayed Road.

The 2012 openings, meanwhile, included a range of new hotel apartments with rooms in the category increasing by 10 per cent to more than 23,000, DTCM said, adding that the additional supply, however did not have an adverse effect on room rates.

Stable occupancy

The Average Room Rate (ARR) jumped to Dh588 last year compared to Dh563 in 2011, as per the tourism authority’s estimates. Guest nights across the sector, meanwhile, increased by 14 per cent over 2011 to 37.4 million.

According to Yousuf Wahbah, Mena Head of Transaction Real Estate at Ernst & Young, occupancy rates in Dubai hotels are not expected to rise drastically in 2013 as the overall city is already experiencing “high stable occupancy and more supply”. “As RevPAR is a function of ADR (average daily rate) and occupancy — and we expect a near six per cent growth in ADR, we expect a marginal increase in RevPAR (revenue per available room) in the year,” he recently told Gulf News, when asked on the projected performance of Dubai’s hotels this year.

“As more hotels come online, Dubai is focusing on revenue optimisation and staying competitive within the rooms and F&B [food and beverage] segments which are expected to yield higher profitability,” he added.

Commenting on the strong 2012 numbers, meanwhile, DTCM’s Al Merri said: “Historically the city was seen by some markets as a stopover destination but in recent years it has become the destination.”.

Further, 2012 saw a 30 per cent jump in visitors from Saudi Arabia, the emirate’s top source market, with Europe constituting over a quarter of Dubai’s hotel guests. Russians visitors to Dubai, meanwhile, jumped 54 per cent in the year, followed by 28 per cent increase in Chinese visitors.