STOCK Dubai skyline / tourism / burj / arab
Dubai's average daily rate, a benchmark used to measure hotel sector performance, is at Dh607 compared to Dh649 this time last year. It was Dh498 in 2019. Image Credit: Dubai Media Office

Dubai: In its updated tourism strategy, Dubai will focus as much on revitalizing its legacy destinations - such as Bur Dubai, Al Fahidi and Souq areas - as it does building new attractions.

“There’s much more we can do in a wider context - there’s Al Serkal Avenue and Al Qouz,” said Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai's Department of Economy and Tourism.

“There’s so much happening in these neighbourhoods (that) we need to draw people’s attention to. Either we sit back and wait for the demand (for such types of offerings) to ignite again or update these areas and create a new surge of energy in these spaces.

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"There are so many new attractions that we are seeing travellers staying in Dubai for up to two weeks now," said Kazim. Currently, multiple streams of expansion are happening for Dubai’s next-level tourism ambitions. The city itself will go through the ‘Urban 2040 masterplan’, and then there is the D33 Economic Agenda programme. The target for year-end is to match, or surpass, the 2019 tourism numbers of 16.73 million.

“We have successful models we’ve seen with many different districts within the city,” said Kazim. “We share that information regularly with partners and show them exactly what the tourists want. We’re not sitting in isolation.

“Even the investments in La Mer and Al Seef, for example, are aligned with exactly the behaviours, patterns and surveys we regularly conduct with the tourists coming in.” La Mer in Jumeirah is undergoing renovation and will be flattened to make way for J1 Beach.

Dubai’s tourism chief Issam Kazim spells out what’s next for the industry

La Mer in Jumeirah is undergoing renovation and will be flattened to make way for J1 Beach. While Kazim did not provide a forecast on how much additional capacity Dubai’s hospitality sector can accommodate, he did say the emirate is focused on investing in all segments – luxury, ultra-luxury, and mid-market hospitality. “Our strategy is we don’t get to a stage where one outstrips the other in a big way,” the CEO said. “We are at the comfortable stage where we can say demand is outstripping supply.”

The average daily rate (ADR), a benchmark used to measure hotel sector performance, is at Dh607 compared to Dh649 this time last year. It was Dh498 in 2019. “This is a good place to be in. We have about 814 hotels, of which say roughly over 150 are in the five-star category, showing that a major chunk sits within four stars and below range.”

We are looking at the depth of Dubai's offerings (and ensuring these are) not limited to Palm Jumeirah and in Downtown Dubai, for example. There is an audience for that, but we are talking about culture, the desert, and the attractions in Hatta...

- Issam Kazim, CEO, Department of Economy and Tourism Dubai

Unified GCC tourist visa

A key topic of discussion at the recently concluded Arabian Travel Market was to launch a unified ‘Schengen-style’ tourist visa for the GCC. The Bahraini Minister of Tourism Fatima Al Sairafi said during a panel discussion that talks are underway at a ministerial level among Gulf countries on how one could achieve this.

STOCK Issam Kazim
A unified Schengen-style GCC visa could bring positive attention to region as a whole, says Issam Kazim Image Credit: Virendra Saklani, Gulf News

Kazim said, “I think that will bring positive attention to the region as a whole.”

For instance, source markets like Australia, South America and specific American markets might see Dubai as a destination too small on the map. “Once they see that the region has a great offering and a good product mix, that might attract them to the destination,” he added. Then it’s up to us to ensure that they see enough of Dubai to create that magnetism for them to return repeatedly.”

More from China

China, a key source market for Dubai, saw its tourist numbers drop drastically due to the country’s extended pandemic lockdown. However, from hotel services to revising menus at restaurants, even students at Dubai College of Tourism are being upskilled to attract and welcome tourists from the Asian country, said Kazim. “We knew that if we were going to talk about increasing the number of visitors, we needed to open up to more markets as well. So, we aligned very well with our local carriers, Emirates and flydubai, as well as international carriers and airports to ensure that the capacity aspect is taken care of.”

The emirate is focused on drawing tourists from the CIS, Turkey, Egypt, France, and the Netherlands. “We will continue to explore these markets further without foregoing our existing core markets,” said Kazim.