The UAE’s efforts to diversify its economy are bearing fruit, as new data has revealed that the country’s tourism sector is experiencing a boom in visitors and revenue.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are at the forefront of this resounding success.
Tourism sector gives oil a run for its money
The UAE has been taking active steps over the years to solidify the tourism sector as a venerable part of the country’s economy, as well as a major selling point to investors and tourists alike.
According to the World Tourism Organization (WTO), the UAE is currently one of the ten fastest growing tourist destinations in the world, which was achieved by the country’s Emirates, especially Abu Dhabi, through developing their infrastructure and supporting the hotel sector, as well as holding exhibitions, festivals and other events.
Tourism in UAE booms, Dubai sector worth $29.6 bn
With new data revealed by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Dubai Tourism, the numbers seem to support this.
At the end of 2017, the sector in Dubai was worth $29.6 billion (AED109 billion) a year according to their findings.
The number of visitors during the first quarter of 2018, who arrived in the country’s airports, reached around 32.8 million, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reports.
Dubai welcomed a record 8.10 million international overnight tourists during the first six months of 2018, representing a consistent increase over the same period last year.
In fact, DXB’s operator revealed in late June that 1.1 million passengers were expected to visit in just 3 days, between July 5th and July 8th.
“The first six months of 2018 have both generated and sustained a steady performance, supporting strong growth across our global feeder markets. Attracting 8.10 million visitors during the first half of 2018 stands us in good stead as we accelerate momentum towards our visionary aspiration of becoming the most-visited city in the world,” Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General of Dubai Tourism, commented.
Where are these tourists coming from?
According to the latest Q2 data compiled by the Expedia Group, a company that runs travel fare aggregator sites, the number of travelers visiting the Middle East from Europe is on the rise. The list of the top ten markets into the UAE include the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, and Switzerland – a total of six European countries.
Recent research released ahead of the Arabian Travel Market revealed that arrivals from Europe to the GCC are set to grow for the period of 2018 – 2020 by around 17%, Expedia explains.
The majority of these travelers are expected to arrive in the UAE.
India, Saudi Arabia, and the UK, in that order, brought in the greatest number of visitors into Dubai in H1.
The hospitality sector remains a key player
Spread across a total of 700 establishments, Dubai’s hotel room inventory stood at 111,317 at the end of June 2018, up 7% compared to the same time last year, WAM reported.
With an increase in demand for mid-market hotels operating in Dubai, the number of four-star properties has increased from 114 to 138, representing 25% of the rooms’ inventory, highlighting the high volume of big spenders passing through the country, the news agency continued.
According to WAM, occupied room nights were also up year-on-year with a total of 14.97 million compared to 14.53 million during the same period in 2017, outlining the ongoing diversity and popularity of Dubai’s hospitality sector.
On the other hand, the latest statistics from the Abu Dhabi Department of Culture and Tourism confirm that 162 hotels, hotel apartments and resorts in the emirate received 339,592 guests during the first half of 2018. This is an increase of around 19,000 guests from June 2017, while hotel establishments in the emirate received 2,413,230 guests during the first six months of the current year, a growth of 5% over the same period in 2017.
The increased popularity of a relatively more budget option for accommodation such as Airbnb has also contributed to an increase in tourism.
“30% of people say that they would not have traveled if it was not for Airbnb,” Hadi Moussa, the company’s general manager for the MENA region, told Hotelier Middle East regarding global users of the app.
Moussa also said that Airbnb has its eyes set on growth within the region, such as plans to capitalize on the 25+ million visitors expected to visit the UAE for the Expo 2020.