Dubai posts 32% increase in 2021 visitor numbers as tourism sector recovers

The emirate hosted 7.28 million international overnight visitors last year

A general view of Jumeirah Beach Residence and Dubai Eye ferris wheel. International visitors to Dubai crossed 3.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2021. Reuters
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Dubai hosted 7.28 million international overnight visitors between January and December 2021, as global tourism industry continues to recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

The visitor numbers to the emirate last year were up 32 per cent year-over-year, Dubai Media Office said in a statement on Thursday, citing data from Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET).

International visitors to the emirate crossed 3.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2021, which is 74 per cent of the total pre-pandemic tourist arrivals in the same period in 2019.

“Our ability and agility in achieving a remarkable turnaround amid continuing global challenges has cemented Dubai’s position as the destination of choice for international travellers,” said Helal Al Marri, director general of DET.

“Dubai’s success in 2021 is testament to the carefully calibrated strategy and decisive measures that were put in place at the outset to counter and manage the pandemic across all sectors including trade and tourism.”

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Dubai’s success in 2021 is testament to the carefully calibrated strategy and decisive measures that were put in place at the outset to counter and manage the pandemic across all sectors including trade and tourism
Helal Al Marri, director general of DET

In December, Dubai International Airport retained its position as the world's busiest for international passengers, overtaking major hubs such as London's Heathrow, as passenger traffic surged during the busy travel period. The emirate held on to the top spot with 3.54 million seats, about one million more than the next busiest airport, Heathrow, according to aviation consultancy OAG.

The growth in international visitors last year was led by India with 910,000 visitors, followed by 491,000 travellers from Saudi Arabia, and Russia and the UK accounting for 444,000 visitors and 420,000 visitors, respectively, according to DET.

The Middle East and North Africa and GCC markets collectively contributed to 26 per cent of Dubai’s total international visitor volumes, while western Europe accounted for 22 per cent of total visitors in 2021.

The emirate’s hotels, meanwhile, outperformed pre-pandemic levels across all measurements in the fourth quarter of 2021, with occupancy levels exceeding 81.4 per cent compared to 80.7 per cent occupancy during Q4, 2019.

Average occupancy reached 67 per cent in 2021 compared to 54 per cent in the previous year, the statement said.

Expo 2020 Dubai continues to serve as a catalyst for drawing more visitors to the city, attracting 11.6 million visits by residents and global travellers in the space of four months, it added.

“Dubai’s well-coordinated, consistent, proactive and creative approach enabled it to lay the groundwork for an accelerated recovery that received a major boost with the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE Golden Jubilee celebrations,” Mr Al Marri said.

Dubai also continued to score high across international indices in 2021, further reinforcing its global appeal.

The emirate was ranked No 1 in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia region and No 12 globally in Julius Baer's Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2021, while in the Global Talent Competitive Index Dubai ranks the third most desirable destination to live and work.

The Gallup Global Law and Order 2021 report ranked the UAE as the No 2 safest country in the world, the media office said.

“In showcasing Dubai as a must-visit destination to an international audience and maintaining momentum, we have leveraged and depended on a combination of factors including our focus on a diversified multi-geographic approach to markets, the strong public-private sector partnerships and global campaigns designed to create awareness of Dubai,” said Issam Kazim, chief executive of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

Across 2021, and now in 2022, Dubai continues to reap the benefits of the series of measures that were put in place at the outset of the pandemic. With more than 94 per cent of the UAE population vaccinated, the country topped Bloomberg's Covid Resilience Ranking in January this year.

“As we move forward throughout 2022, we are confident that the significant momentum now gathered will accelerate even further to continue to attract not just tourists but also investors, entrepreneurs and innovators to Dubai,” Mr Al Marri said.

Updated: February 04, 2022, 10:50 AM