Dubai welcomed 7.28 million international overnight visitors between January and December 2021, representing 32 per cent year-over-year growth (YoY), establishing a momentous marker in the global tourism recovery, and setting the city firmly on course to achieve sustainable growth on its way to becoming the world’s most visited destination.
According to the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) international visitation to the city surpassed 3.4 million visitors in the fourth quarter of 2021, achieving 74 per cent of the total pre-pandemic tourist arrivals of Q4 2019, and paving the way for hotels in Dubai to deliver a stellar fourth-quarter performance that surpassed pre-pandemic levels.
The positive trend is expected to continue throughout 2022 and beyond.
Helal Saeed Al Marri, Director General, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, commented: “In leading the global tourism recovery with the support of our stakeholders and partners, Dubai constantly set precedents, demonstrating how to safely yet effectively open up to international visitors and, critically, stay open. Dubai’s well-coordinated, consistent, proactive and creative approach enabled it to lay the groundwork for an accelerated recovery that received a major boost with the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE Golden Jubilee celebrations.
“As we move forward throughout 2022, we are confident that the significant momentum now gathered will accelerate even further to continue to attract not just tourists but also investors, entrepreneurs and innovators to Dubai, enabling them to enjoy and avail themselves of all that our multi-faceted city has to offer,” Al Marri added.
Dubai strongholds regained momentum to register positive growth during 2021, with No.1 source market India delivering 910,000 visitors (5.3 per cent YoY), followed by 491,000 travellers from Saudi Arabia (+22.8 per cent YoY) whilst Russia and the United Kingdom contributed 444,000 visitors (+50.3 per cent YoY) and 420,000 visitors (+7.1 per cent YoY) respectively.
MENA and GCC markets collectively contributed to 26 per cent of the total volumes. Western Europe accounted for 22 per cent of total visitors in 2021, with visitation led by the UK, followed by France, Germany, Italy and Netherlands.
South Asia contributed 18 per cent of the international visitation with Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe together making a 15 per cent contribution.
For the first time, the hotel sector outperformed pre-pandemic levels across all measurements in Q4 2021 including over 81.4 per cent occupancy compared to 80.7 per cent occupancy during Q4 2019.
Average occupancy, overall, reached 67 per cent in 2021 compared to 54 per cent in the previous year, which is among the highest occupancy rates internationally.
Continued domestic and international investment into the sector also meant that, by the end of 2021, Dubai’s visitors and residents could choose from a total of 755 hotel establishments and 137,950 rooms, compared to 711 hotels establishments that were open with 126,947 rooms at the end of 2020.
Guests also spent longer in Dubai’s hotels, with an average length of stay reaching 4.6 nights (up from 4.2 nights in 2020), while the total of 31.47 million occupied room nights represented 53.7 per cent growth compared to 2020, and approximately 98 per cent of the occupied room nights of 2019.
Showcasing Dubai through Expo 2020
Expo 2020 Dubai continues to serve as a magnet for drawing more visitors to the city, attracting 11.6 million visits by residents and global travellers in the space of four months.
New attractions and leisure destinations that have opened to visitors include Ain Dubai, Deep Dive Dubai, Hatta Dome Park and The View at The Palm.
Opportunities were also provided by festivals and events like the Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Summer Surprises, Dubai Fitness Challenge, Gulfood, ATM and Gitex to increase visitation by leisure and business travellers.
Global liveability hub
Delivering exceptional experiences combined with an outstanding quality of life, Dubai was placed No.1 in the MEASA region and No. 12 globally in Julius Baer’s Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2021 while in the Global Talent Competitive Index Dubai ranks the 3rd most desirable destination to live and work.
The UAE was also voted the 4th best for expatriates to live and work in on HSBC’s 14th annual Expat Explorer Survey 2021, up 10 places from 2020. The Gallup Global Law and Order 2021 report ranked the UAE as the No.1 country in the world for walking at night safely while the same report also ranked UAE as the No.2 safest country in the world.
Dubai was also voted the world’s No.1 destination for ‘City Lovers’ and No. 4 destination for ‘Food Lovers’ in Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2022.
Issam Kazim, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, commented: “In showcasing Dubai as a must-visit destination to an international audience and maintaining momentum, we have leveraged and depended on a combination of factors including our focus on a diversified multi-geographic approach to markets, the strong public-private sector partnerships and global campaigns designed to create awareness of Dubai, highlight its unique propositions and most importantly emphasise that the city is safe, open and accessible to all.”
Global campaigns and in-market activities
In 2021, the city rolled out the ‘Dubai Presents’ campaign featuring trailers starring Hollywood actors Jessica Alba and Zac Efron. The campaign saw over 3,500 assets broadcast to audiences in 25 languages and directly speaking to travellers of all ages and interest groups – encouraging bookings and driving engagement with the destination. DET also hosted a number of in-person networking events in key tourism source markets.
New initiatives to spur growth
Dubai continues to launch bold regulatory initiatives to promote accelerated growth of the tourism sector including streamlining access to the emirate by establishing hassle-free entry procedures for business and leisure travellers, as well as long-term engagement with the city. These include the Five-Year Multi-Entry Visa, new timeshare law and portal to help pave the way for a world-class vacation ownership market in Dubai. Other initiatives include the Golden Visa initiative and Virtual working and Retire in Dubai Programmes.