Dubai seeks new markets to surpass 2021 overseas visitor numbers, DET chief says

Exclusive: The emirate is diversifying its tourism plans with focus on Latin America, eastern Europe and US

Visitors at the Dubai stand during the Arabian Travel Market held at Dubai World Trade Centre, where Issam Kazim revealed tourism plans for the emirate. Pawan Singh / The National

Dubai expects to draw more overseas visitors in 2022 than the 7.28 million tourists it hosted last year, as the emirate focuses on new source markets, offers flexible visa categories and attracts more companies, its tourism chief has said.

The emirate is further diversifying its tourism source markets with a focus on Latin America, eastern Europe and the US, Issam Kazim, chief executive of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, told The National in an interview at the Arabian Travel Market on Thursday.

"The way things are looking now we should exceed last year's number for sure because this is the least the city should expect," he said. "We're hoping most of the other markets will continue to open up more and more and that we don't go into any other restrictions."

Dubai, the commercial and trading centre of the Middle East, recorded about 4 million visitors in the first quarter of this year, up 214 per cent compared to the same period last year, government data showed. It also ranked first in the world in terms of the hotel occupancy rates, with hospitality establishments recording a rate of 82 per cent in the first three months of 2022. The city was one of the first destinations to reopen to tourists in June 2020, after it had put in place measures to curb the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The lockdown in China, one of the top source markets for Dubai before the pandemic, is a "big concern" and the emirate is pushing to open new markets, Mr Kazim said.

"Latin America ... there is potential for sure and we're working with Emirates Airline because it is a long-haul destination, so we're trying to make sure that we're doing point-to-point where possible but also doing transfers where we can,.

"Eastern European markets are a huge potential for us," Mr Kazim said, citing Poland, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan as examples. "There's more to do there for us."

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES, 22 APRIL 2018 - Issam Kazim, CEO, DCTCM (Dubai Tourism) at the 25th Arabian Travel Market, Dubai. Leslie Pableo for the National for Sarah Townsend’s story

The number of Russian visitors to the emirate has remained "stable" in the first quarter since the Russia-Ukraine war, says Mr Kazim, with Dubai remaining a destination where they can explore business and leisure opportunities.

While Russian many foreign airlines are subject to reciprocal airspace bans and other curbs that have greatly curtailed flights, Dubai’s Emirates Airline provides one of the few remaining travel links between Russia and the rest of the world.

Dubai is aiming for 25 million overseas visitors by 2025. The emirate also has ambitions to become the most visited city in the world, up from its current fourth spot behind Bangkok, London and Paris.

To accommodate the planned increase in tourists, Dubai is eyeing a bigger supply of hotels across the city's various districts with a diverse mix from luxury to budget rooms, Mr Kazim said.

The emirate currently has 150,000 hotel rooms and is evaluating the future growth in the number of guests to tailor the new supply accordingly, Mr Kazim said, without providing a number for new hotel rooms to come into the market by 2025.

Meanwhile, Dubai does not have plans currently to introduce gaming facilities as there is scope to develop other offerings, Mr Kazim said.

"As far as I know, there is no indication that it will happen in Dubai anytime soon," he said.

Updated: May 17, 2022, 12:48 PM