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Visitors during the Arabian Travel Market 2023 at Dubai World Trade Centre in Dubai. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Dubai: The UAE’s travel and tourism sector is gearing up for another bumper year, driven by growing demand among tourists for longer stays and more immersive experiences – all of which the UAE is well placed to provide, according to industry experts.

Buoyed by investments in the hospitality sector and the opening of several new hotels and attractions, experts have said the UAE is also well-placed to achieve its strategic goal of welcoming 40 million hotel guests by 2031.

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“Many travellers are now choosing longer seven to ten-day holidays. Inbound visitors are staying in the UAE longer as well. This is more so the case because business travellers are combining their work trips with leisure holidays,” according to Raheesh Babu, COO of, an online travel agency. “Moreover, travellers are booking for their summer holidays months in advance. The frequency of travel has also witnessed a significant uptick, with travellers opting for multiple trips annually.” This goes for both inbound and outbound travel.

New hotels

On the hospitality front, at least 14 new hotel openings are expected to take place this year, from Jumeirah Marsa Al Arab to Five Luxe. According to the Hotel Monitor, 2024 report by American Express Global Business Travel (Amex GBT), hotel room rates are expected to increase by 10 percent in Dubai.

Dubai is at the forefront of the regional hospitality market with a robust outlook for 2024. The city now surpasses major capitals like London, New York City, and Bangkok in hotel room availability, boasting over 150,000 hotel rooms as of this month, according to Danielle Curtis, Exhibition Director ME, Arabian Travel Market (ATM)

The optimism from hospitality leaders comes ahead of the 30th edition of the ATM, set to begin on Monday, May 6. Over 41,000 visitors are expected to participate this year.

Demand to remain robust

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths predicts that travel demand will remain robust for the foreseeable future. “I am very optimistic that passenger demand will continue to surprise us every time we revise the forecast. It is always in the upward direction. So, I think that is going to be a phenomenon that we will have to live with for quite a long time,” said Griffiths.

In 2023, Dubai International Airport (DXB) remained the busiest international hub for passengers for the 10th year in a row, according to preliminary data from the Airports Council International (ACI). DXB saw a surge in long-distance travel demand, handling 86.9 million passengers, marking a 31.7 per cent increase from the year before.

Major contributor to GDP

“Last year, the UAE exceeded the 2019 numbers (contribution to GDP) by a quarter. It was 25 per cent bigger than in 2019. That is a massive leap and probably one of the biggest in the world. This year, in 2024, we predict that travel and tourism will represent 12 percent of UAE’s GDP, and it is going to be worth Dh236.4 billion,” said Julia Simpson, President and CEO of the World Travel and Tourism Council.

She said, “The sector will employ 832,900 people this year. That means over 12 percent of the employable population will be in travel and tourism. In 10 years, there will be a million jobs in travel and tourism, and the sector is likely to be worth Dh275 billion.”

The WTTC chief said international visitors account for nearly 75 per cent, or three-quarters, of all spending within the sector.

“If you look at leisure versus business spending, you can see that leisure is very strong. About 83 per cent of all spending comes from leisure visitors,” she explained.

International visitor spending is forecasted to grow by nearly 10 per cent, reaching Dh192 billion, while domestic visitor spending is expected to increase by 4.3 per cent to reach almost Dh58 billion. Julia explained, “The UAE's travel and tourism sector has not only recovered; it soared to new heights, establishing itself as a cornerstone of the nation's economic landscape.”

UAE’s strategy also aims to raise the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP to Dh450 billion, with an annual increase of Dh27 billion, and attract new investments of Dh100 billion to the sector in the country.