Guests also spent longer in Dubai’s hotels, with average length of stay reaching 4.6 nights, up from 4.2 nights in 2020. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai welcomed 7.28 million international overnight visitors between January and December 2021, a 32 per cent growth compared to the year-ago period.

According to the latest data published by the emirate’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), international visits to the city surpassed 3.4 million visitors in the fourth quarter of 2021, achieving 74 per cent of the total pre-pandemic tourist arrivals of Q4 2019, and paving the way for hotels in Dubai to deliver a stellar fourth quarter performance that surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

Most tourists to the emirate came from India (910,000 visitors, up 5.3 per cent year-on-year), Saudi Arabia (491,000, up 22.8 per cent), Russia (444,000, up 50.3 per cent) and the UK (420,000, up 7.1 per cent).

Top 10 source markets (number of visitors)
India: 910,000
Saudi Arabia: 491,000
Russia: 444,000
UK: 420,000
USA: 311,000
France: 291,000
Oman: 280,000
Pakistan: 247,000
Germany: 240,000
Egypt: 218,000

Robust international visitation was boosted by strong tourism arrivals from regional markets. MENA and GCC markets collectively contributed to 26 per cent of the total volumes, reinforcing Dubai’s continued appeal to travellers from proximity markets. Western Europe accounted for 22 per cent of total visitors in 2021, with visitation led by UK, followed by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. South Asia contributed 18 per cent of the international visitation with Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe together making a 15 per cent contribution.

The 2021 visitation figures underline the resilience and resurgence of the city’s travel and tourism sector and reaffirm the role of tourism as a key driver of economic growth, while further validating Dubai’s recent selection as the world’s most popular destination in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2022. The positive trend is expected to continue throughout 2022 and beyond.

“Under the visionary leadership and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai, our ability and agility in achieving a remarkable turnaround amid continuing global challenges has cemented Dubai’s position as the destination of choice for international travellers,” said Helal Saeed Al Marri, Director General, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism.

“The outstanding performance also advances our journey towards becoming the most visited destination and the world’s best city to live and work in. In leading the global tourism recovery with the support of our stakeholders and partners, Dubai constantly set precedents, demonstrating how to safely yet effectively open up to international visitors and, critically, stay open. Dubai’s well-coordinated, consistent, proactive and creative approach enabled it to lay the groundwork for an accelerated recovery that received a major boost with the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE Golden Jubilee celebrations.”

Hotels excel

With domestic tourism accounting for a large share in the accommodation sector, Dubai’s hotels performed strongly in the fourth quarter to achieve significant growth across all hospitality metrics compared to 2020. For the first time, the hotel sector outperformed pre-pandemic levels across all measurements in Q4 2021 including over 81.4 per cent occupancy compared to 80.7 per cent occupancy during Q4 2019.

Average occupancy, overall, reached 67 per cent in 2021 compared to 54 per cent in the previous year, which is among the highest occupancy rates internationally. Continued domestic and international investment into the sector also meant that, by the end of 2021, Dubai’s visitors and residents could choose from a total of 755 hotel establishments and 137,950 rooms, compared to 711 hotels establishments that were open with 126,947 rooms at the end of 2020.

Guests also spent longer in Dubai’s hotels, with average length of stay reaching 4.6 nights (up from 4.2 nights in 2020), while the total of 31.47 million occupied room nights represented 53.7 per cent growth compared to 2020, and approximately 98 per cent of the occupied room nights of 2019.

Showcasing Dubai through Expo 2020

The opening of Expo 2020 Dubai on October 1, 2021 marked the start of an incredible new era for the city’s tourism industry. The exhibition has attracted 11.6 million visits by residents and global travellers in the space of four months.

Global liveability hub

Dubai continued to score high across international indices in 2021. It was placed No.1 in the MEASA region and No. 12 globally in Julius Baer’s Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2021 while in the Global Talent Competitive Index Dubai ranks the 3rd most desirable destination to live and work.

The UAE was also voted the 4th best for expatriates to live and work in on HSBC’s 14th annual Expat Explorer Survey 2021, up 10 places from 2020. The Gallup Global Law and Order 2021 report ranked the UAE as the No.1 country in the world for walking at night safely while the same report also ranked UAE as the No.2 safest country in the world. In addition to being picked as the world’s most popular destination, Dubai was voted the world’s No.1 destination for ‘City Lovers’ and No. 4 destination for ‘Food Lovers’ in Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2022, which were based on independent destination reviews and ratings from travellers across accommodation, restaurants and activities over 12 months from 1 November 1 2020 to 31 October 2021.