Burj Khalifa
The UAE is currently ranked among the top five nations globally in terms of vaccine rollout. Image Credit: Insta/ burjkhalifa

Dubai: As Dubai marks a year since reopening its borders to international tourists on 7 July 2020, the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Tourism shows the city welcomed 3.7 million overnight visitors during the 11-month period from July 2020 to May 2021. The positive performance reinforces the leading role Dubai is playing in global tourism recovery.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai said, “We have seen inspiring commitment and proactivity from all stakeholders in the public and private sector to work together to adopt innovative approaches that can consolidate the sustainable recovery of the sector.”

“Furthermore, Dubai’s ability to implement a rigorous precautionary protocol regime has made the city one of the world’s safest destinations for travelers. As we gear up to host Expo 2020, these exceptional standards will enable us ensure the event provides the highest global benchmarks of safety and security for all visitors.”

According to the data published by Dubai Tourism, the emirate received more than 1.7 million visitors between July and December 2020 from markets that were open, and an additional two million visitors in the first five months of 2021.

Hospitality sector rebounds as tourism market recovers

Pent-up demand for staycations among UAE residents, both Emiratis and expatriates from over 200 nationalities, drove tourism growth with hotel occupancy rising significantly from 35 per cent in July 2020 to 58 per cent in May 2021. Hotel occupancy in Dubai peaked in December 2020 (69 per cent) and in January 2021 (66 per cent).

Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19 across sectors, Dubai continues to represent a major opportunity for hotel developers. A total of 591 hotel establishments with 100,000 rooms were operating in July 2020 in full compliance with health and safety protocols. This has now increased to 715 hotel establishments offering 128,000 rooms in May 2021.

Safety Assured

A variety of safety initiatives were launched, based on the guidelines of Dubai’s Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, including a wide range of precautionary measures, in addition to effective testing and vaccination programmes. The vaccination campaign also covered employees across hotels, considered the frontline of the tourism industry, starting with a pilot programme that saw more than 10,000 employees of leading hotels on The Palm Jumeirah receiving the vaccines.

The UAE is currently ranked among the top five nations globally in terms of vaccine rollout.

Alternative pathways to boost tourism growth
In 2020, Dubai Tourism launched the Retire in Dubai programme offering resident expatriates and foreigners aged 55 years and above the opportunity to retire and enjoy a distinct lifestyle in the emirate, as well as a Virtual Working programme that enabled overseas professionals to work remotely based in Dubai. Two new initiatives that followed the 2019 implementation of the long-term Golden Visa programme allowed individuals to apply for 10 and 5-year residency. This was targeted at investors, entrepreneurs, specialised talent in art, medical and scientific fields, as well as students and property owners.

Dubai also launched other projects and programmes that will support tourism growth including the new Al Quoz Creative Zone, a dynamic hub for artists and designers. A host of new developments are set to expand the diversity of Dubai’s offering and add to the momentum of recovery including Ain Dubai, the world’s tallest observation wheel, and the Museum of the Future. These will further build on Dubai’s position as a world-leading business hub, which has been reinforced by the increasing number of multinationals and start-ups choosing the city as their base of operations.