Dubai's international visitors up more than threefold in first five months of 2022

Surge in visitor numbers attributed to government's Covid-19 initiatives and momentum from Expo 2020

Tourists watching the water fountain display near the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. Bloomberg
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Dubai welcomed about 6.17 million international visitors from January to May 2022, three times more than the approximately two million recorded in the same period last year, according to the emirate's Department of Economy and Tourism.

The surge in visitor numbers was a result of government initiatives that helped the tourism sector bounce back quickly from the Covid-19 pandemic and the momentum generated by Expo 2020 Dubai, the DET said in its first City Briefing for 2022 on Thursday.

The figure is also up about 20 per cent from the 5.1 million visitors recorded in the first four months of 2022.

"As we look ahead to the remainder of 2022 and beyond, we will harness the key elements that have ensured the industry’s steady growth year after year since we reopened to international visitors in 2020 — providing an unparalleled diverse destination offering [with] unique value and memorable experiences for our guests," Helal Almarri, director general of DET, said in a statement provided by the Dubai Media Office.

Tourism is one of the key pillars of Dubai's economy, but as with the global industry, it ground to a halt because of the pandemic.

The UAE, however, implemented rigid safety measures and rolled out an extensive vaccination programme to stem the spread of Covid-19. As a result, it became one of the first economies to reopen and welcome back visitors.

The travel and tourism sector plays a key role in Dubai's non-oil private sector economy, which posted “robust improvement” in May as it surged to its strongest level in 35 months, the headline S&P Global Dubai Purchasing Managers' Index showed earlier this month.

Outbound travel is also expected to continue its upward trajectory. Dubai Airports on Thursday advised travellers to brace for a busy period starting this weekend, with daily passenger traffic at Dubai International Airport expected to average 214,000 owing to the school summer break and the upcoming Eid Al Adha holidays.

There are also several megaprojects in the UAE, either under way or already open, that will help attract more visitors, including the Sharjah forest community, Falcon Island in Ras Al Khaimah, National History Museum Abu Dhabi and the recently opened Mohammed bin Rashid Library in Dubai.

Meanwhile, the site of Expo 2020, which concluded in March, will be transformed into Expo City Dubai and will soon welcome thousands of new residents and businesses.

DET figures revealed that Dubai's hotels had an occupancy level of 76 per cent from January to May, maintaining their performance through the end of April, and up from 62 per cent in the same period last year.

That places the emirate first globally in that metric, ahead of other international destinations including New York, London and Paris, according to hospitality analytics provider STR.

All these figures reflect the emirate's resilience and the successful implementation of the recovery strategy for the tourism sector, said Issam Kazim, chief executive of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing.

“Our constant dialogue with partners is crucial in ensuring that we are all aligned with the collective efforts being made under the guidance of our visionary leadership to ensure the city stays at the forefront of the world’s leading travel destinations," he said.

The summer season will bring back notable events on Dubai's tourism and retail calendar, including Dubai Summer Surprises, the region’s biggest festival for the season that is marking its 25th edition, Eid Al Adha and the Dubai Fitness Challenge, which kicks off in October.

“With our unbeatable summer proposition, Dubai offers more value than any comparable destination with its world-class infrastructure, the vast scope of its events and entertainment centres and hassle-free entry process, making it the summer destination of choice for families," said Ahmed Al Khaja, chief executive of the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment.

"Our continuous collaboration with partners has paved the way for Dubai to offer a unique holiday package, allowing families, residents and visitors to avail themselves of innovative promotions, incentives and diverse deals this summer in Dubai."

Dubai's Department of Economy and Tourism held its first City Briefing for 2022 on Thursday. Photo: DET
Updated: June 23, 2022, 4:50 PM