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68873 18 Aug 2019

Dubai Delivers on Tourist Volumes Again with a Strong 8.36 million Overnight Visitors in the First Half of 2019

The new figures reinforce the continued strength of Dubai’s tourism sector as a key driver of economic diversification and a reliable catalyst for GDP acceleration through 2020.

Government of Dubai Media Office – August 2019: Dubai welcomed 8.36 million international overnight visitors in the first six months (January-June) of 2019, posting a positive three per cent in tourism volume growth compared to the same period last year, according to the latest data released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism). The new figures reinforce the continued strength of Dubai’s tourism sector as a key driver of economic diversification and a reliable catalyst for GDP acceleration through 2020. The largest traffic generators as well as newer high-potential segments have set a strong preparatory pace to fuel Dubai’s climb to becoming the most visited global destination.

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai Tourism commented: “Tourism is one of the cornerstones of Dubai’s diversified economic growth, and we measure success based on our ability to aggressively advance towards our goal to be the number one most visited and most preferred city as envisioned by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The consequent rise in value creation opportunities, and more inclusive sector participation are core priorities, as we equally strive to sustainably grow GDP contribution. Our first half results are a particularly encouraging reflection of our progress towards this ambition and underline the effectiveness of our diversified market outreach with holistic ‘awareness to booking’ cycle content amplification and audience delivery, through a deeply networked ecosystem of global partners, industry stakeholders and government enablers.”

The sustained effectiveness of the Department’s market-specific strategies and customised annual programming are evidenced in the tangible visitation outcomes delivered across the traditional strongholds, propelled by targeted campaigns highlighting Dubai’s propositions, and tapping into the city’s dynamic appeal and growing connectivity across continents.

India once again led the pack, drawing the highest half year volumes with 997,000 visitors – particularly noteworthy given the severe air traffic and seat capacity challenges due to geopolitical volatilities. Dubai continued to drive booking interest from Indians on a mass scale largely due to high-impact delivery of segment and season-specific campaigns across the most accessible Tier-1 and Tier-2 cities. From focused ‘family’ or ‘couple’ oriented promotions to the Bollywood megastar Shah Rukh Khan-led global #BeMyGuest campaign, the Department’s investments yielded strong returns, with the latter alone surpassing all records, logging 160 million views in a short few weeks. Additionally, at an audience penetration level, travel share of Indian families with children rose by a substantial 10 percentage points from 24 to 34 percent, directly reflecting higher GDP impact due to party size and spend potential. With more than 30 in-market trade partnerships initiated in the first half of 2019 alone, Dubai Tourism’s confidence in, and commitment to, India is further emphasised by strategic annual collaborations launched with the biggest names in the travel ecosystem – such as Thomas Cook, Cox & Kings and SOTC, as well as OTAs like MakeMyTrip and Goibibo.

Coming in strong as Dubai’s second largest feeder market once again, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) delivered 755,000 visitors at two per cent year-on-year growth over six months with a notable 4.9 per cent increase over the Eid break alone – signifying continued stability in Dubai’s attractiveness for Saudi families and millennials. With the GCC as a whole, and KSA (as its lead contributor), being key priorities on Dubai Tourism’s strategic agenda, investments in deepening alliances with the country’s travel ecosystem continued to increase in H1 2019, reflecting the value of such partnerships – particularly via consolidated marketing-promotions-sales programmes. In addition to the planned calendar of specialised fam trips for KSA’s top travel agents and tour operators, showcasing the latest and most relevant Dubai offering to help them develop tailor-made itineraries for their audiences, Dubai Tourism entered into a long-term association with the Seera Group, one of the region’s leading providers of travel services in the Middle East and North Africa.

Staying firmly within Dubai’s top three traffic drivers, the UK delivered 586,000 travellers beating all odds against a significantly devalued British Pound (vs. US Dollar), amidst growing political and economic turbulences surrounding Brexit. Contrary to general dampening in consumer sentiment, Dubai retained high demand from couples – constituting 56 per cent of share – and families accounting for 20 per cent – collectively up three percentage points from H1 2018. As the two focus segments for Dubai Tourism’s strategy in the UK, the results validate the success of its ‘always on’ approach leveraging bespoke and seasonal campaigns; advocacy-based content partnerships and localised influencer marketing; and audience-specific trade alliances. One of H1 2019’s highlights included a Red Bull signature ‘Only in Dubai’ collaboration featuring the UK’s very own BMX star Kriss Kyle in action across Dubai’s iconic landmarks – garnering five million views within a week.  

With over 501,000 Chinese visitors to Dubai from January to June 2019, the stellar 11 per cent year-on-year growth from inarguably the world’s most aggressively sought-after consumers is testament to Dubai Tourism’s successful strategies to maintain high conversion appeal for China’s outbound market. Building on its proven three-pronged approach, 2019 saw Dubai Tourism actively pursue enhancements across all aspects – (i) ‘direct-to-consumer’ platform-based awareness programmes; (ii) customised trip-planning supplemented by advocacy-driven collaborations; (iii) in-city experience and China Readiness delivery. From Tencent’s entire ecosystem beyond WeChat, covering highly innovative pilots around gaming content, to Alibaba’s suite of technology and digital platforms such as Alipay and Fliggy – investments have ensured the cementing of China as the fourth largest traffic driver for Dubai. Notable successes this year include the launch of the Dubai Mini Assistant, an enhancement of the city-experience Mini Program, one of the applications of WeChat, with 10 new mobile-based digital audio tours to highlight in-city accessibility, local historic sites and cultural landmarks for Chinese netizens. To further elevate Dubai’s status on China’s travel wish list and raise advocacy levels post-visit, the Dubai College of Tourism launched the Chinese Traveller Standards in H1 2019 for tourist-facing staff across city touchpoints to be able to deliver personalised, exceptional Dubai experiences to every Chinese guest.

Very close on China’s heels, the second GCC stronghold – Oman – catapulted into the top five with a massive 28 per cent growth to land 499,000 visitors to Dubai, as Dubai Tourism’s seasonal campaigns, tactical programmes and city activations reaped tangible dividends. Aimed at retaining ‘top-of-mind’ consideration – especially for short frequent visits – Dubai piloted innovative new platform collaborations with the likes of TikTok, the world’s leading short-form mobile video application to launch the #ThisisDubai campaign. Inviting GCC travellers to share their unique Dubai stories with specially themed music for a chance to win a trip to the emirate, the programme delivered exceptional response from the target audiences with over 30 million video views and nearly 10,000 posted UGC videos.           

Following an exceptional resurgence in Dubai travel for 2018, thanks to the visa-on-arrival enablement, growth from Russia levelled to more sustainable levels, as H1 2019’s sixth largest source market delivered 375,000 visitors to Dubai. Venturing for the first time into a ‘reality TV’ style production, the “To Dubai with Love” campaign showcased five celebrity couples mentoring participants, highlighting Dubai as the perfect holiday getaway for young Russian couples. The contest premiered to an overwhelming response and closed with high levels of interest in Dubai, with 60 couples winning invites to celebrate 2019 Valentine’s Day in Dubai. Transitioning seamlessly from ‘romantic getaway’ to ‘family fun’ during Spring break, Dubai Tourism continued its well-entrenched pan-European tactical promotions campaign with adapted messaging tailored to be most relevant Russian audiences, delivered through a strong trade ecosystem, sophisticated targeting and specialist amplification channels.          

The United States followed in seventh spot with 329,000 visitors, marginally up from 327,000 visitors in H1 2018, supported by concerted marketing efforts and trade collaborations with five new trade partnerships developed in the first half of 2019, to raise awareness of the destination and promote holiday packages and deals.

Germany’s five per cent growth to deliver 316,000 visitors, and Pakistan’s three per cent growth to yield 253,000 visitors, brought them in at eighth and ninth positions respectively, as Philippines jumped three ranks into the top 10 finishing a strong first half with 216,000 travellers, reflecting a 29 per cent increase that made it the fastest growing source market for Dubai this year.

A resounding testament to the success of Dubai Tourism’s efforts to permeate newer segments and actively leverage direct connectivity, is the collective performance of Western Europe that retained its regional leadership with strong contributions in overnight visitor volumes during H1 2019. Commanding a 21 per cent share of arrivals, and in addition to UK and German contributions, 10 per cent growth stemmed from France and five per cent growth from Italy with the Netherlands and the Nordics adding to net volumes. The GCC and South Asia closely followed, with 18 and 16 per cent share of all international visitation to the city respectively. North Asia and South-East Asia accounted for 12 per cent to reflect not just China, but also growing consideration for Dubai in newer Eastern territories. 

The proximity markets across the MENA region maintained a volume of 10 per cent, with Egypt specifically jumping to 13th place recording a 10 per cent increase in visitors, while Russia, CIS and the Eastern Europe region followed with a strong nine per cent share of the tourist base. The Americas and Africa at seven and five per cent contributions respectively proved the efficacy of market diversification strategies and Dubai’s global appeal. Africa’s strong showing with its nine per cent increase in terms of visitor numbers was bolstered by the 28 per cent growth from Nigeria as one of the rapidly growing emerging markets pushing into the top 20 bracket for the first time in 2019. Australasia rounded off the regional mix with two per cent of the market share, leveraging the appeal of Dubai as a stopover destination for long-haul travellers from this region.

H.E. Almarri added: “Designed to counter unforeseen macro-economic variables faced by the global travel ecosystem and mitigate impediments associated with over-reliance on any one market or region, we have been long-standing proponents of a globally diversified market strategy – which continues to support our resilience as a sector. Our agile and customised strategic programmes also continued to deliver novel and market-centric solutions to strike a fine balance in fuelling more traffic from our traditional strongholds and unlocking the immense potential that exists in the emerging markets.”

With the support of visionary leadership, Dubai continues to make bold moves to promote accelerated growth of the tourism sector. Streamlining access to the emirate by establishing hassle-free entry procedures continues to be a top priority for Dubai Tourism. The recent nationwide implementation of a tourist visa fee waiver for children under 18 years of age, who are accompanied by their parents, has augmented Dubai’s position as a leading family-friendly tourism destination.

In the first six months of 2019, the city continued to focus on providing its residents and tourists a plethora of first-class entertainment offerings and attractions, including the opening of the region’s largest multipurpose indoor entertainment centre, the Coca-Cola Arena. With a capacity to hold 17,000 visitors, the arena offers a year-round programme of events including sporting tournaments, e-gaming, theatre and musical performances, conferences and gala dinners.

Designed to give diverse international audiences a holistic understanding of the city’s Islamic heritage, the recently opened Quranic Park is a comprehensive and immersive cultural and educational experience unique to the region. The park spans over 60-hectares with two main attractions, The Glass House and The Cave of Miracles. Visitors have the opportunity to experience more attractions citywide across theme parks and other family entertainment centres, as Dubai continues to invest heavily in tourism infrastructure and facilities, as well as mega development and retail projects.

H.E. Almarri concluded: “Remaining relevant and constantly top-of-mind to global audiences in today’s reality of overly saturated and omni-present communications is one of the main challenges we face across all sectors. Our approach to create a unique positioning and raise Dubai’s consideration among global travellers is to regularly showcase the dynamic evolution of our city proposition and the versatility of our portfolio that delivers truly customisable experiences for each and every visitor. Such a strategy would not be successful without multi-level partnerships between the public and private sector, and our cross-sector efforts are especially evident in the festivals and events spheres where our constructive and cooperative relationships with stakeholders have helped create truly memorable experiences for visitors. Stakeholder engagement is crucial to generating tourism growth and we are confident that it is this collective vision that will carry Dubai’s tourism industry into the future and ensure that it remains a ‘must visit’ destination.”

Hotel inventory

Dubai’s hotel sector continues to be integral to the emirate’s destination promise and to the overall growth of the tourism industry, delivering best-in-class quality and standards on par with top hotels in other leading world cities and an increased diversity in its portfolio, offering tourists more choices to meet the needs of their diverse traveller profiles.

Between January and June 2019, further strides were made to expand Dubai’s hospitality offering to match the evolving needs of visitors, with the opening of new hotels including Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre, W Hotel Palm Jumeirah, Studio One Hotel, Rove at the Park at Dubai Parks and Resorts, Premier Inn Hotel Al Jadaf and Vida Emirates Hills adding to the city’s portfolio of world-class facilities and amenities. 

Average occupancy for the hotel sector stood at 76 per cent – one of the highest hotel sector occupancies in the world – with establishments delivering a combined 15.71 million occupied room nights during the first six months of the year, a five per cent increase over the same period in 2018.

Spread across a total of 714 establishments, Dubai’s hotel room inventory stood at 118,345 at the end of June 2019, representing a six per cent increase, which showcased continued strong investor confidence in Dubai's tourism demand and market appetite. This healthy correlation between supply and global demand also resonates with the steady rise in the number of visitors opting to stay in hotels, indicating that not only is the inventory keeping pace in volume but also in product diversity – evolving competitively across different tiers to allow for a more aligned asset mix offering custom services that can appeal to highly divergent needs of Dubai's global audience.

Luxury five-star and four-star hotels commanded 34 and 25 per cent of the emirate’s total inventory, respectively.  Meanwhile properties in the one to three-star categories represented a share of 20 per cent. Increasing demand for diversified accommodation options was met with a combined 21 per cent of hotel apartment establishments across the deluxe/superior and standard categories.