Shaikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, inaugrates Arabian Travel Market 2018 at Dubai World Trade Centre and exhibition halls, Dubai. Photo: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: The annual Arabian Travel Market (ATM) kicked off on Sunday in Dubai, showcasing the latest trends and technologies in the hospitality and aviation markets.

The event, now in its 25th year, brings together over 2,500 companies, including key players such as Emirates airline, Etihad Airways, Emaar Hospitality Group, Rotana Group, and other local and international companies.

Over $2.5 billion (Dh9.8 billion) in deals are expected to be signed over the four-day-run of ATM, organisers said.

The travel exhibition was officially opened by Shaikh Maktoum Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai and first deputy chairman of the Dubai Executive Council.

On day one of the show, Dubai Tourism released its annual visitor report for 2017, which highlights a number of key trends in the tourism sector.

The report details who is travelling to Dubai, and for what purpose, as the emirate seeks to attract 20 million visitors by 2020.

Of the 15.8 million people who visited Dubai in 2017, three out of four visitors were families and couples, with individuals making up 14 per cent, and friends 8 per cent, while 73.8 per cent of tourists travelled to Dubai for leisure purposes, with those visiting friends and relatives making up 13.9 per cent of the total, and business travellers 11.5 per cent.

Those nearly 16 million visitors stayed in Dubai for an average of 7.6 days.

In terms of where the emirate’s visitors came from, Dubai’s top 10 source markets contributed a share of 59 per cent of total tourist volumes, with the remainder made up of “highly diversified” markets across the globe, the report said.

Popular tourist sites

Luckily for the city’s hotels, 77 per cent of visitors chose to stay in paid accommodation, as opposed to staying with friends and relatives.

The gender mix was fairly balanced, with 47 per cent women travellers, while the party size averaged at 2.5 persons.

As for the most popular tourist sites, Dubai Mall remained the city’s most visited attraction, drawing 97 per cent of visitors, followed by the Dubai Fountain with 81 per cent, and heritage and cultural districts with 63 per cent.

Surpassing 2016 ratings, 99.4 per cent of surveyed visitors said they were either happy or extremely happy with their overall Dubai experience, with 69.1 per cent in the latter category.

Similarly, 99.3 per cent of surveyed visitors indicated they would be likely promoters or active advocates of Dubai, recommending the destination to friends and family.

According to the report, the biggest increases in overall satisfaction levels were witnessed among travellers from Germany and France, with the biggest leaps in advocacy levels coming from German and Chinese visitors.

In a foreword at the beginning of the report, Helal Saeed Al Merri, director general of Dubai Tourism, said: “As we diligently work towards these targets, our strategic focus on driving advocacy has become an even more critical component in today’s aggressively competitive travel marketplace, and one that has served us well, and will continue to fuel sustained tourism growth.”