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The number of visitors in Q1 was just two percentage points short of pre-pandemic volume of 4.75 million tourists. Image Credit: Supplied/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Dubai welcomed 4.67 million international overnight visitors in the first quarter of 2023, compared to 3.97 million tourists during the same period in 2022, a 17 per cent year-on-year growth, data published by the Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) showed on Monday.

Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, said: “The remarkable growth in international visitation achieved by Dubai in the first quarter of 2023 demonstrates the city’s emergence as one of the key destinations leading the way in the rebound of the global tourism sector.

“The tourism sector is not only the strongest pillars of our economy but also a key enabler of Dubai’s distinctive role in the world as a bridge between markets, cultures and regions. In the years ahead, Dubai will continue to introduce new pathbreaking initiatives to offer a distinctive proposition for travellers and achieve its goal of becoming the world’s best place to live, visit, work and invest in.”

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The results position Dubai as the fastest recovering destination globally, achieving 98 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in Q1 2023, and exceeding the projection made by the United Nations World Trade Organisation that international tourist arrivals could reach between 80-95 per cent of pre-pandemic levels this year, especially in Europe and the Middle East.

The number of visitors in Q1 was just two percentage points short of pre-pandemic volume of 4.75 million tourists that arrived in Dubai in the first three months of 2019.

Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, commented: “To maintain Dubai’s global appeal as the first-choice destination for travellers, we will continue to follow the multi-pronged blueprint that largely contributed to our success in 2022 - evolving the destination promise, a multi-geographic approach to markets, constant international outreach through global campaigns, hosting international MICE, business and leisure events, and further improving stakeholder relationships.

Strong rebound

Dubai’s traditional source markets delivered solid tourism volumes during the first quarter of the year with key regions continuing to make an impact on international visitation. GCC and MENA combined was the top region, collectively contributing to 29 per cent of total volumes. Western Europe accounted for 22 per cent of tourism arrivals, while South Asia accounted for 16 per cent, followed by CIS and Eastern Europe together contributing 15 per cent, Americas (7 per cent), North Asia and South East Asia (6 per cent), Africa (4 per cent) and Australasia (1 per cent).

Hotel sector spearheads growth

Average occupancy for the sector during the January-March period stood at an impressive 83 per cent, making it one of the highest in the world, and almost on par with the 84 per cent occupancy recorded in Q1 2019. This achievement is particularly notable given a 26 per cent increase in room capacity since then. By the end of March 2023, the city’s hotel sector had a total of 148,877 rooms in 814 hotel establishments compared to 118,039 rooms in 717 hotel establishments in 2019. Continued domestic and international investment into the sector helped further boost hotel inventory, with the first quarter of 2023 seeing a 6 per cent increase in the total number of hotels and rooms compared to the same period in 2022.

The hotel sector outperformed pre-pandemic levels across all other hospitality metrics. During the first three months of the year, Dubai hotels collectively provided 10.98 million Occupied Room Nights, a YoY growth of 7 per cent and a 27 per cent increase compared to the pre-pandemic period of Q1 2019, which registered 8.63 million Occupied Room Nights.