Dubai tourism sector witnesses strong start to 2016

Dubai Tourism announcement at ATM 2016
Dubai Tourism announcement at ATM 2016

Dubai welcomed 4.1 million overnight visitors in the first three months of 2016, a 5.1 per cent increase over the same period last year, backed by strong double digit growth from its top two proximity markets, the GCC and India, according to figures released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) at Arabian Travel Market 2016.

The GCC continued to be the destination’s leading feeder region, delivering 25 per cent of all overnight visitation to Dubai in the first quarter. Visitors from Saudi Arabia grew 14 per cent to 476,000 from January to March in 2016, making it the number one source country, followed by strong growth from Oman, which increased by 32 per cent over the same period in 2015with 322,000 visitors. Kuwait, which remained in the top 10 with 119,000 visitors, and Qatar, which saw 26 per cent spike in visitor volumes, rounded off the high performing regional traffic with strong contributions.

The Asian subcontinent also remained a key driver of tourism volumes with India growing at 17 per cent in the opening quarter to deliver 467,000 overnight visitors, making it the second largest feeder country, followed by Pakistan within the region, which swelled by 18 per cent over the same period.

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Despite challenging global market conditions, and a strong US Dollar, visitors from Western Europe continued to be second largest source region with a 23 per cent visitor share overall in the opening quarter of 2016. This was led by 10 per cent year-on-year quarter growth from the United Kingdom, which remained Dubai’s third largest country contributor with 334,000 visitors. Rounding off the top five was Germany which brought in 171,000 visitors, rebounding strongly from a slow start in the new year. France, with 76,000 visitors, remained flat over Q1 2015, whilst Italy grew 5 per cent, representing 69,000 visitors.

Director general, DTCM, HE Helal Saeed Almarri said: “Global travel in the first three months of this year has been impacted by geo-political, social and economic uncertainties, with most markets experiencing flat to negative growth. I see Dubai’s highly agile, fragmented source market approach, the strength of our government, public and private sector partnerships, as well as our effective promotional and marketing outreach, as having been fundamental to fuelling overall growth.

“Markets within the four hour flight path, specifically the GCC and India, remain a critical focus for our on-going visitation attraction efforts as build towards our growth targets. With an expanded festivals and events calendar taking off extremely well in the first three months and the opening of a number of new retail destinations and attractions, we are constantly evolving our propositions to ensure that our markets have more reasons to return time and time again. This is only expected to increase in prevalence throughout the year as a number of flagship projects and initiatives come on line, adding more depth and diversity to the Dubai offering.”

Other key countries in Dubai’s top 10 source markets fo rthe first quarter included the US, which delivered 166,000 visitors; China, which was up by four per cent; and Iran, which was the only market to see a decline. Rounding out the top 20, the Philippines saw 25 per cent quarterly growth over the same period in 2015, Canadian visitors increased by nine per cent, countering declines across Egypt, Russia, Jordan, Australia and the Netherlands.

The emirate had a good start activity-wise in 2016 with a host of projects, initiatives and events spearheading the destination’s visitation attraction programme such as  Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Food Festival, along with the launch of the XYoga Festival Dubai.

Beautification projects along the beaches, coastline, parks and green spaces, were among the key projects that gained momentum in the first quarter.

In tandem, Dubai’s retail landscape continues to evolve, with numerous new shopping areas and international brands, such as City Walk 2, Box Park and The Beach complex in Jumeirah Beach Residence, adding to Dubai’s already strong offering made up of over 95 malls as well as traditional Arabian souks. With close to 400,000m2 of additional retail space scheduled to be completed in 2016 across the emirate, other major retail developments include the 1.9 million square Dragon Mart 2 extension as well as the upcoming Outlet Village which will feature alongside a number of theme parks opening and Dubai Mall – Phase 2, ensuring that tourism’s contribution to the economy is further amplified.

Dubai’s accommodation portfolio also saw growth with 676 establishments in operation as of March 2016, representing 98,949 rooms across all hotel and hotel apartment categories. New hotel openings ensure the city maintains its reputation for luxury, while a host of new mid-market hotels – encouraged by DTCM-led incentives – are expanding options available to visitors.

Furthermore, DTCM continued to work across the travel and trade ecosystems, leveraging cooperative partnerships with key partners and players, including the signing of strategic partnerships in February with two of China’s biggest industry players, Union Pay International and Tuniu, one of the country’slargest online leisure travel service platforms.

Almarri added: “Tourism-related infrastructure and capacity enhancement investment is expected to accelerate during 2016 through more segment-specific offerings such as culture and heritage attractions and family-oriented theme parks, in addition to continued focus on enhancing the business environment that underscores Dubai’s pursuit of becoming the number one destination for travel, business and events. Dubai will be steadily implementing projects to develop, enhance and promote the core pillars of Dubai’s destination offering that in turn feed into the agenda to not just attract more volumes but to further the sector’s growing contribution to the emirate’s GDP, and be a source of sustainable competitiveness for future growth.