Dubai welcomed just over three million visitors during the first two months in 2017, recording a 12% year-on-year growth – nearly four times the rate of the previous year – reports the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism).
Growth in all key markets, China and Russia in particular, drove the volumes and set the stage for a strong first quarter result. This period witnessed a 60% growth in overnight tourists from China with January alone peaking at a dramatic 102%, while attracting a total of 157,000 Chinese visitors across just the first two months.
Reflecting an even more significant percentage increase, Russian visitation jumped 84% over the same period last year with February delivering a massive 140% volume increase to bring a total of 65,000 travellers in the first two months.
Consequently, both contributing countries moved up in their rankings as key source markets for inbound tourism to Dubai with China entering the top 4 for the first time and Russia moving to just outside the top 10, up 4 places from 15.
Backed by focused destination marketing campaigns across strategic feeder markets for the season, Dubai Tourism’s promotional efforts in China for Chinese New Year and Russia for the pre-spring break were strongly stimulated by the positive regulatory changes allowing both countries visa-on-arrival status into the emirates.
“As we continue to invest in raising consideration for Dubai as the destination of choice for global travellers, our focus at Dubai Tourism is equally on increasing Dubai’s accessibility and removing barriers to travel by working closely with partners and stakeholders in the public and private sectors on both a federal and emirate level. Ultimately our collective aim is to make it as easy and seamless as possible for any prospective tourist from our diversified base of source markets to visit and revisit Dubai,” says Helal Saeed Almarri, director general, Dubai Tourism.
“We are delighted to see visitor numbers make a strong start in 2017. We work closely with the government on initiatives to drive increased visitation, and the decision by the leadership of the UAE to offer visas-on-arrival to our Chinese and Russian guests has already proven an astute one, as we have seen an almost instant positive effect from both countries. Dubai Tourism has invested significant efforts in marketing Dubai as an appealing destination for visitors from China and Russia, and we are encouraged to see such promising results,” he adds.
“Our teams in both markets have worked hard to build the profile of Dubai in the leisure and business space by strengthening ties with leading players in the travel industry and developing a full calendar year of activity across the markets encompassing trade, marketing, PR and digital ecosystems. As 2017 progresses, we expect to capitalise on Dubai’s additional hotel room supply at various price points, as well as the recent openings of attractions such as IMG Worlds of Adventure, the world’s largest indoor theme park, and Dubai Parks and Resorts, the region’s largest integrated theme park resort to drive continued high performance from the sector,” he continues.
Following the visit of a high-level Dubai Government delegation and private stakeholders to China in October 2016, Dubai has progressively improved its ‘China Readiness’ at an overall city level across all aspects of the tourist journey – particularly across infrastructure components and key pillars of the destination proposition. Some examples of steps taken include increasing the number of Mandarin-speaking customer service representatives for tourism related activities across the emirate, widening acceptance of Chinese payment systems, allocating culturally trained staff in hotels, malls and attractions dedicated to inbound Chinese groups, providing additional F&B outlets catering to their tastes, and making Mandarin-language maps available at attractions and shopping malls throughout the city. Collectively, these measures, complemented by the in-depth understanding among Dubai Tourism’s trade partners of the Chinese traveller’s expectations and needs, as well as the market as a whole, have been instrumental in raising the profile of Dubai in the Chinese market.
The Russian market has retained its trajectory of recovery that commenced last year, following a prolonged period of economic instability that resulted in a marked drop in Russian outbound travel. Having posted a year-on-year increase of 14% in overnight visitation in 2016, the dramatic spike in 2017 so far is a strong indicator of the positive sentiment for outbound travel from the market, and more specifically the strong consideration for Dubai among couples and families. With prospects for the rest of 2017 looking optimistic, Dubai Tourism expects to fully leverage the new visa status benefits and build even stronger networks with the trade in the Russian market through its recently appointed agency Action Global Communications. With a prominent client list and extensive experience in the travel and tourism sphere, the organisation will act as Dubai Tourism’s strategic arm on-ground to further position Dubai as an attractive destination for Russian travellers.
“While the strong performance in January and February is encouraging and to be applauded, it is important to stress that we still have much to do as we face a dynamic global environment influenced by various macro-economic and geopolitical challenges. Nonetheless, we remain confident in the strength of Dubai’s appeal as a tier 1 travel destination and will continue to mitigate risks by pursuing a diversified source market strategy as we work towards our target of welcoming 20 million visitors per year by 2020,” Almarri concludes.