Dubai a global tourist capital

Published February 28th, 2013 - 08:02 GMT
Dubai had around 15 million tourists come in last year while Abu Dhabi managed to attract 2 million
Dubai had around 15 million tourists come in last year while Abu Dhabi managed to attract 2 million

The UAE has over the years has established itself as one of the most coveted tourism destinations in the world. Looking beyond just oil, the country has successfully managed to set up a strong economy based on tourism.

And the increasing number of tourists just add to the boom. Dubai, for instance, had around 15 million tourists come in last year, while Abu Dhabi managed to attract 2 million. And the number is only set to grow given the number of new hotels set to hit the market besides tourism events such as the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF), Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS) and many other such events Dubai plays host to.

A recent report revealed the GCC hotel room pipeline comprised 78,915 rooms with 42,765 rooms currently under construction and 36,150 rooms in the planning stage, and the UAE accounting for 45 per cent of this pipeline.

And the hotel supply in the country is expected to increase at a CAGR (compounded annual growth rate) of 5.3 per cent from 96,992 hotel rooms in Dubai and Abu Dhabi to 125,383 hotel rooms in these two emirates in 2016. There are currently 93 properties in the planning and construction phase in the UAE, which is the second biggest hotel market after Saudi Arabia.

So much new hotels supply coming into the market in the future only reinforces how ready Dubai is to play the host city for the Expo 2020.

“Dubai is well placed and would be a fantastic host should it be successful in its bid for Expo 2020. Dubai is a popular destination for corporate and leisure travellers and benefits from a strong hotel offering across all segments,” Elizabeth Winkle, Managing Director of STR Global, told Gulf News in an emailed statement.

Dubai has the infrastructure across the tourism sector from air lift to hotel supply to certainly meet the demand we have seen other Expo market’s experience.”

She added that as of January 2013, Dubai has 56,423 rooms available and the supply continues with Dubai’s extensive pipeline. STR Global, in conjunction with Tourism Economics, is forecasting this supply to increase by 7.1 per cent on a CAGR basis in the next three years.

“We suggest demand to grow by 4.2 per cent on a CAGR basis over this same period and the main question would be whether Expo would supplement or displace some of the typical demand,” Winkle pointed out, adding that Dubai provides a welcoming visa policy and its position as a global and regional hub makes it “very accessible” for international guests.

There has been much emphasis in the past few years on driving the Meetings Incentives Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) business as it is a major contributor to the tourism industry. It brings 20 to 30 per cent of the tourists to the country, he added.

Active Mice market

The past few years have seen a lot of emphasis on driving the Meetings Incentives Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) business as it is a major contributor to the tourism industry, bringing 20 to 30 per cent of the tourists to the country.

An Economic Impact Assessment report prepared by Oxford Economics recently revealed that the spend associated with events at the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) in 2011 contributed Dh6.5 billion towards Dubai’s economy in 2011. Just in that year, not counting corporate meetings, incentives and exhibitions, Dubai hosted 34 international events.

In Abu Dhabi, meanwhile, MICE events are set to grow seven per cent annually over the next eight years to Dh5.1 billion by 2020, according to Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority. And the total contribution of these business events to the capital rests at Dh2.4 billion, according to the tourism authority.

Meanwhile, to encourage the business in the field, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) set up a division called Dubai Convention Bureau (DCB), with a clear aim of further developing and increasing Dubai’s share of the international MICE and special events markets, whilst maximizing the economic prospects of Dubai.


It’s the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) owing to which Dubai is today a global brand of sorts. The emirates has managed to pull people from all over the world for the month-long shopping festival it hosts every year in the January-Feb period. And this is then followed by another shopping and entertainment bonanza in the summer, called the Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS).

What started in February 1996 as a simple retail event intended to revitalize the retail trade in Dubai, DSF is today a globally celebrated event.

More than 50 million visitors have spent a total of Dh117 billion during the DSF so far, a spokesperson of Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment (DEPE), organisers of DSF, recently told Gulf News. This translates to a per capita spending of Dh2,340 ($638) per visitor to the DSF.

Packaged as a retail and an entertainment experience, the 17 years of DSF saw 1,900 raffle draws being conducted; Dh1.5 billion worth of prizes distributed; Dh100 million worth of prizes shelled out in raffle draws on an average every year; and 719 kg of gold disbursed.

The region’s largest and longest running shopping and entertainment extravaganza, the DSF has since inception, welcomed millions of visitors who have spent billions of dirhams in shopping malls, airlines, hotels and entertainment outlets.

The event clearly plays a vital role in the development of tourism in Dubai, thereby boosting the country’s economy.

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