Chinese visitors taking a trip on an abra near Madinat Jumeirah. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: The number of Dubai’s overnight visitors from China has grown more than a hundred per cent since 2014, it was announced ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s arrival in the UAE.

The Chinese president will arrive in the UAE for a three-day state visit on Thursday. The visit is projected to boost long-term political and economic ties between the two countries.

Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) on Wednesday revealed that the number of overnight Chinese visitors has increased by 119 per cent since 2014 and the department recorded a year-on-year increase of 41.4 per cent from 2016 to 2017.

Overnight visitors are those who choose to stay the night in a city before going to their next destination instead of just having a layover.

The record-breaking growth makes China Dubai’s fastest growing source market and currently fourth source market. The first five months of 2018 closed with a record 400,547 visitors. Officials predict this growth to continue throughout the year.

Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of Dubai Tourism, said the robust growth came following strategic partnerships with the Asian giant.

“Our approach to engaging Chinese tourists is two-fold, with landmark partnerships, investments and marketing activities undertaken in 48 cities across China, partnered with a city-level China-readiness strategy in Dubai to enhance the experience of Chinese tourists,” Almarri said.

“The introduction of visa on arrival for Chinese nationals in 2016, working in conjunction with the increase in air capacity by national carriers from China — currently standing at 30 flights a week, a 13 per cent increase in non-stop seat capacity in 2017 — has also contributed to rapid growth,” he added.

Dubai Tourism currently has four regional hubs in China: one each in Beijing connecting 11 cities, in Shanghai servicing 10 cities, in Chengdu in southwestern China connecting six cities, and in Guangzhou servicing 17 cities.

Earlier this year, Dubai Tourism signed an agreement with Huawei, one of China’s leading smartphone manufacturers, in January which pre-loads devices with both user-generated and official cinematographic content of Dubai.

The agreement was expanded further in May with Huawei Mobile Services agreeing to offer useful and accessible content about Dubai through the company’s newly-updated SkyTone travel and roaming apps.

Additional milestones include an agreement with Fliggy, Alibaba’s online travel platform, and strategic alliance with China’s mega internet conglomerate, Tencent, to elevate the positioning of Dubai as the preferred destination for Chinese travellers and to launch an audio guide feature on WeChat.

Dubai Tourism is also working towards several projects concentrating on innovation and artificial intelligence.

Private and public sector collaboration on activities such as citywide Chinese New Year celebrations and upskilling teams to be better able to cater to Chinese traveller requests.

The development of the Dubai Tourism China mark also contributed to the growth. In addition, through Dubai College of Tourism, an entity of Dubai Tourism, some 200 guides have been trained in Mandarin.

In 2017, China became the world’s number one source market for tourism with 129 million outbound trips, according to research by Ctrip.