Unveiling Dubai’s tourism landscape and its journey to ascendancy

On the sidelines of ATM 2024, with Bader Ali Habib, Regional Head of Proximity Markets, Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) we gain invaluable insights into Dubai’s future as a global tourism powerhouse. With a strategic focus on enriching tourism offerings, cultivating key markets like India, and championing sustainability, Dubai is poised to solidify its status as one of the world’s premier destinations for many years to come.

– Sonika Bohra

Dubai welcomed 5.18 million international overnight visitors from January to March 2024, an 11 per cent rise over the 4.67 million tourist arrivals during the same period in 2023. The robust industry figures follow a successful first year of the D33 Agenda, which aims to further consolidate its position as a leading global city for business and leisure.

A Global Magnet

Dubai’s status as a global entertainment hub is bolstered by new attractions and a year-round calendar of business, leisure, and sporting events, attracting tourists worldwide. Its commitment to guest satisfaction ensures every visitor becomes an ambassador, spreading the city’s reputation for prioritising happiness and comfort globally.

Dubai’s allure as a top destination stems from several key factors. With an awe-inspiring skyline and constantly evolving landmarks, the city attracts global attention. Its hotels redefine luxury and hospitality, offering opulent accommodations and unparalleled service. Dubai also boasts some of the finest restaurants, providing a culinary journey that satisfies every palate. The city pulses with energy from numerous events and festivals, drawing visitors from across the globe. High-end shopping, adventure sports, and rich cultural explorations add to its appeal. From the serene desert to the bustling city streets and scintillating beachfront, a world of adventure awaits to be explored. In Dubai, the possibilities are endless.

Strategic Insights into the Indian Market

For Indian travellers, Dubai is a comfortable short-haul leisure destination. It is connected to key metros and Tier 2 cities in India, which proves to be a game-changer for many aspiring Indians wanting to travel internationally. Due to close proximity, Dubai remains one of the top leisure and business destinations for Indians. Yet DET constantly implements strategic initiatives to position Dubai as the ultimate choice for Indian travellers. Bader says, “India has been an incredible market for us; however, its ever-changing nature demands our constant attention. Being comfortable is not an option here. We have to always stay proactive and adaptable in this huge market.”

DET thrives on a data-driven approach in India, capitalising on the ample consumer data available across various platforms. When it comes to the Indian market, they meticulously calculate their every move, and also believe in intuition, which adds the magic touch. “India serves as our playground for continuous experimentation and innovation,” asserts Bader Ali Habib. DET also employs a highly tailored approach to different markets, like China, India, South Korea, Japan, and Southeast Asia.

Highlighting Dubai’s remarkable rise as a preferred destination for Indian travellers, Bader Ali Habib pointed out that India has consistently maintained its position as Dubai’s primary tourism market in recent years. In Q1 this year, Dubai welcomed approximately 687,000 visitors from India, marking an impressive 12 per cent increase compared to the previous year. It is a second home for many Indians, and for some, it may even feel like a first home now, given the increasing number of people moving to Dubai permanently.

Maximising Indian Stopovers and Summers

Dubai stopovers offer travellers a unique opportunity to explore the vibrant city while breaking up their journey. DET aims to position Dubai as a gateway where travellers can stop, shop, play, and have fun, even during their stopovers, before continuing their journey. Bader explains, “Stopovers are incredibly significant for us; we spare no effort in optimising this experience. Notably, a considerable portion of Indian travellers passing through the UAE is enroute to destinations like the US and UK, especially those with family connections in these regions. Our objective is to entice travellers to Dubai for stopovers as short as 24 hours, catering not only to families but also to couples and solo travellers from India, our new potential segments.”

Given Dubai’s bustling winter season, where every place is pretty much full, DET’s focus is also on enticing more travellers to visit during the summer months of June, July, and August. “To capitalise on the school break period in May and June, we have launched the Kids Go Free campaign, collaborating with additional stakeholders. Families with children under 12 can now enjoy complimentary accommodations, meals, and entertainment for up to two children, encouraging more families to choose Dubai for their summer getaway,” affirms Bader.

Dubai’s appeal as a repeat destination is further enhanced by its year-round popularity and budget-friendly packages, especially during the summer months. As a bucket list destination, it continues to attract first-time Indian visitors, bolstered by the annual issuance of 13 to 15 million new passports in India. Dubai has also simplified its e-visa regulations to draw more tourists from India.

Bader Ali Habib also emphasised on the importance of crafting campaigns that resonate deeply with the Indian audience, leveraging cultural elements such as Bollywood and cricket, and optimising influencer partnerships. DET has focused on more impactful collaborations, resulting in a 10 – 15 per cent increase in returns. Several B2B travel trade engagements have been orchestrated, including roadshows, mega-familiarisation trips, and trade workshops.

Towards Excellence and Innovation

Guided by the objectives of the D33 Agenda, Dubai is committed to further elevating standards across the Emirate and expanding its tourism offering with innovative and distinctive world-class infrastructure, experiences, and attractions. In addressing product development, Bader emphasised Dubai’s strategic multi-year collaboration with sports and pop culture to enrich its entertainment offerings. Dubai’s diverse offerings are constantly evolving, supported by world-class infrastructure, exceptional service at all touchpoints, and continuous collaboration between the government and private sectors. DET is creating new pathways to growth beyond traditional tourism, through investment, entrepreneurship, and attracting global talent to relocate to the city.

Dubai has a very healthy MICE sector, and the city has a substantial total of 96,484 hotel rooms across five-star and four-star establishments, representing a significant 64 per cent share of the overall hotel rooms in the city, with average room occupancy typically ranging from 81 to 84 per cent.  The ongoing expansion of the cruise sector is also seeing significant benefits for Dubai. The city has been a significant player in the Cruise Arabia alliance, working closely with its partners to create interconnected and integrated regional cruise services. Overall, all efforts are instrumental in making Dubai the best city to visit, live, and work in.

Commitment to Ecological Excellence

As the UAE’s ‘Year of Sustainability’ continues into 2024, Dubai remains committed to sustainable practices, aligning with global and national goals. Led by the tourism and hospitality sectors, Dubai showcases its eco-friendly approach through various initiatives, exemplifying its commitment to ecotourism. Among these efforts is the ‘Dubai Can’ initiative, which includes the ‘Refill for Life’ campaign promoting reusable bottles and refilling at 50 water fountains across the city. This initiative has already reduced the equivalent of over 18 million 500-ml single-use plastic water bottles in two years. Additionally, the ‘Dubai Reef’ project, part of the ‘Dubai Can’ initiative, is the world’s largest marine reef development, enhancing fish stocks and promoting marine biodiversity.

On the initiatives, Bader emphasises, “At DET, there’s collective accountability for implementing green practices, crucial for managing tourism volumes while safeguarding our natural heritage. We are committed to achieving our net zero goals by 2050.”




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