Visitors at Dubai pavilion at Arabian Travel Market 2024.
Visitors at Dubai pavilion at Arabian Travel Market 2024. Image Credit: Virendra Saklani/Gulf News

Dubai: Dubai is well placed to enhance investments in the hotel sector, unveil additional attractions, and introduce innovative visa schemes to cater to the growing demand for tourism.

Dubai is also working towards exploring new source markets and bolstering existing tourism initiatives, Hoor Al Khaja, Senior VP of International Operations, Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), told Gulf News on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market.

“The overall D33 strategy aims to double the GDP in the next ten years and ensure Dubai is one of the top three destinations in the world. There is (already) a lot of support regarding new hotel chains. However, there are many plans to develop different areas of the city, such as the Palm Jebel Ali and others. And you will see more and more investments and attractions the government supports in those spaces,” said Hoor.

Dubai’s hotel room inventory as of January 2024 rose by 2 per cent to 150,408 rooms compared to 147,199 at the same time last year.

“We have already had an increase in hotel rooms in the last few years, and investment (in the sector) will continue to flow. And it won’t be across just one segment such as resorts or budget (stays), but across different places in the city to ensure the supply is also diverse so that we get all kinds of visitors,” stated Hoor. These also include hotel apartments and holiday homes, said the official.

The Emirate has set ambitious targets to boost inbound tourist numbers to 23-25 million by 2025. Dubai's tourism sector achieved record visitor numbers in 2023, attracting 17.15 million international visitors, a 19 per cent year-on-year increase, surpassing the previous 2019 record of 16.73 million. And in the first three months of 2024, the Emirate welcomed 5.18 million visitors, 11 per cent higher than the first quarter of last year.

New markets

Dubai’s diversified approach means not relying on just one or two source markets. The Emirate covers more than 40 source markets, which has proven beneficial during and after the pandemic.

“We continue to explore different markets, nurturing our existing ones while venturing into new ones. For instance, in the last couple of years, we’ve started focusing more on Turkey and Pakistan, which were not traditionally our main markets,” she said.

“We remain aligned with where Emirates and other airlines are flying, targeting various segments, including leisure, business, destination weddings, and medical and wellness tourism,” added Hoor.

We continue to explore different markets, nurturing our existing ones while venturing into new ones

- Hoor Al Khaja, Senior VP of International Operations, Department of Economy and Tourism (DET)

Recovery of Chinese markets

Hoor also said China remains a crucial market for Dubai, and the city’s performance has been very strong. “China's outbound market, not just to Dubai but globally, hasn't fully recovered from the pandemic. China was one of the last markets to reopen after the pandemic, and flight capacity is still below pre-pandemic levels for all countries,” she added.

“Despite this, due to the strong relationship between the UAE and Chinese governments, we were among the first to receive priority for flight resumption. The affinity of Chinese travellers for Dubai is extremely high. However, we have not yet reached the pre-2019 levels; it's what we call a "recovery market”,” said Hoor.

“As of Q1, we've seen around 75 per cent of the 2019 visitor numbers, approximately 218,000 Chinese visitors,” she stated. Hoor said Dubai would continue to invest in the market with tailored B2C campaigns for events like Lunar New Year and Golden Week.

“We anticipate a full recovery in Chinese outbound travel, and we aim to be at the forefront when that happens,” she added.

New GCC Grand Tours visa

Hoor said the soon-to-be-launched GCC Grand Tours visa will also significantly benefit Dubai, the UAE, and the rest of the region.

“Firstly, anything that benefits the region also benefits us, and vice versa. Dubai is not just a destination in itself but also a gateway to other parts of the world due to our connectivity and regional standing,” she explained.

“Secondly, it aligns with Dubai's ongoing visa initiatives, which were in place even before the pandemic. We've introduced various visa types, including visa-on-arrival and visa-free options, and post-pandemic, we've been agile in introducing new types of visas, such as remote working and the Golden visa. This aligns with our commitment to offering different access options to various consumer segments,” she said.