Dubai leads the way for tourism revival

As Dubai marked one year since reopening its borders to international tourists on July 7, 2020, the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) shows the city welcomed 3.7 million overnight visitors during the 11-month period from July 2020 to May 2021.

The positive performance reinforces the leading role Dubai is playing in global tourism recovery, underscoring the city’s enduring appeal as a must-visit destination and reaffirming its commitment to ensuring the health and safety of all residents and visitors.

HH Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, said, “The growing momentum of recovery not only reflects the fundamental strengths of Dubai’s tourism sector and the diversity of its source markets but also the emirate’s economic resilience and agility in the face of a rapidly fluctuating global environment. Furthermore, Dubai’s ability to implement a rigorous precautionary protocol regime has made the city one of the world’s safest destinations for travellers. As we gear up to host Expo 2020, these exceptional standards will enable us ensure the event provides the highest global benchmarks of safety and security for all visitors.”

According to the data published by Dubai Tourism, the emirate received more than 1.7 million visitors between July and December 2020 from markets that were open, and an additional two million visitors in the first five months of 2021. The evolving travel landscape has brought forth some noteworthy performances from feeder and emerging markets, especially CIS countries like Kazakhstan and Ukraine, and East African markets like Ethiopia and Sudan, that have all exhibited strong growth potential to be among the top 15 source markets for Dubai since it reopened its doors to global travellers.

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai Tourism, commented, “The resurgence in international arrivals demonstrates our commitment to a diversified market strategy, the ability of our tourism sector to adapt and respond with agility across all our markets, the enduring appeal of our world-class diverse offerings and the trust that visitors place in Dubai as a safe destination. The positive performance also validates the effectiveness of Dubai’s public-private partnership model and our robust international marketing campaigns designed to sustain Dubai’s appeal as the destination of choice for global travellers. The critical role played by our strategic partners such as Emirates, flydubai, Dubai Airports and other industry stakeholders, as they consistently conveyed the message that Dubai is open and safe for all travellers, contributed immensely towards industry stabilisation.”

The provision of a relief package worth over AED7.1 billion combined with a phased reopening of key sectors and Dubai Tourism’s strong collaboration with local stakeholders and over 3,000 partners worldwide, helped the industry chart a steady course for recovery.

Domestic hospitality sector rebounds

Dubai’s recovery strategy, implemented in close coordination with stakeholders, proved crucial in reinvigorating the domestic hospitality market in May 2020, preparing the ground for the return of international visitors to the city in July 2020. Pent-up demand for staycations among UAE residents, both Emiratis and expatriates from over 200 nationalities, drove tourism growth with hotel occupancy rising significantly from 35 per cent in July 2020 to 58 per cent in May 2021. Hotel occupancy in Dubai peaked in December 2020 (69 per cent) and in January 2021 (66 per cent) with the city ranking second globally in terms of occupancy after Singapore and ahead of Paris and London, according to data from hotel management analytics firm STR. Notably, the average daily rate (ADR) recovered from AED238 in July 2020 to AED383 in May 2021. Despite the disruption caused by COVID-19 across sectors, Dubai continues to represent a major opportunity for hotel developers. A total of 591 hotel establishments with 100,000 rooms were operating in July 2020 in full compliance with health and safety protocols.  This has now increased to 715 hotel establishments offering 128,000 rooms in May 2021.

The concerted efforts of Dubai Tourism and partners to drive demand for domestic travel saw city hotels welcoming 5.5 million domestic visitors for the period between July 2020 and May 2021, compared to 2.66 million domestic hotel arrivals during the period July 2019 to May 2020, an astounding year-on year growth of 106 per cent. The hotels also enjoyed an average 56 per cent occupancy during the Eid Al Fitr holiday week in May 2021, which though less than the average occupancy of 62 per cent during the Eid week in 2019, highlighted the crucial role played by the domestic market in Dubai’s tourism recovery. Furthermore, domestic hotel arrivals during the Eid week in May 2021 accounted for 62 per cent of all hotel guest arrivals compared to 47 per cent in 2019.

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