A protective face mask lays amid grass on the Piazza del Campo, that hosts the Palio di Siena horse race twice a year, which has grown only since a strict lockdown has meant crowds of tourists and Italians can no longer visit the square, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, in the medieval city of Siena, Italy, April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini
Tourists are making a return at the first opportunity... Prospects for a second-half recovery are quite strong. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: Around 1.26 million visitors have been to Dubai since January, while the emirate recorded 5.5 million visits last year with the COVID-19 spread continuing to have a say on numbers.

“It is a non-significant number when you consider previous years in mind - however, it is a significant number when you look at global travel patterns,” said Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Tourism, during an event on Tuesday. “We are very optimistic about the numbers for the year, because we have the Golden Jubilee celebration of UAE’s formation, and, more importantly, Expo, starting in October, which can give us a great platform.

“With so many events from business and leisure events that are taking place, I think it's a great time to work closely with our partners, including the Expo themselves, to ensure that the global market is well aware, and excited about the visit.”

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Programmes hit targets

Kazim said various schemes intended to attract professionals and entrepreneurs to Dubai were working. “We had the retirement visa programme; we had a student visa programme as well – (these) are attracting more and more people to not just visit Dubai, but to also choose Dubai to be home,” said Kazim.

Indian travellers

Flights from India to UAE have been suspended due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in the South Asian country. “Needless to say, India is definitely the biggest market for Dubai, and we've taken all necessary steps needed before closing it for now,” said Kazim. “It is one of those situations where we will need to keep track of what's happening, how things are progressing, how risks are being mitigated.”