Dubai records 11% increase in Q1 tourist numbers amid travel rebound

The emirate hosted more than 5 million visitors in the first three months of this year

Tourists take photos with camels on the beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai. New data shows the emirate is on track for another standout performance in tourism this year. Reuters
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Dubai recorded an 11 per cent increase in tourist numbers in the first quarter of the year as the emirate continued to benefit from a rebound in global travel demand after the coronavirus pandemic.

The emirate hosted 5.18 million international overnight visitors from January to March 2024, compared with 4.67 million tourist arrivals during the same period a year earlier, according to data published by the Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) on Monday.

“The number of visitors in the first quarter of 2024 indicates that Dubai is on course for another standout performance this year after the emirate received a record number of visitors last year,” said Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the emirate's Executive Council.

“This will ensure that the tourism sector continues its growth journey in line with the … objectives of the Dubai Economic Agenda (D33), which aims to strengthen its position as a leading global city for business and leisure.”

The increase in tourists comes as global airline capacity improved after the Covid-19 pandemic and as more travellers from China, a crucial market for the emirate in 2019, started to return to the city in increasing numbers, Issam Kazim, chief executive of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, told The National on the sidelines of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

“What we're better at doing today is getting the right product out to the right audience and in front of them at the right time, which helps us quite a lot, leveraging different platforms and channels and means of communication,” he said.

Dubai, which is known for its luxury hotels, is also seeing returns on a strategy in 2014 to encourage more three-and-four star hotels to be built to offer more budget-friendly accommodation for a wider variety of travellers.

“What we've also been able to do over the years is really instigate the product offering from the three-and-four-star segment. So we've talked to all our partners and stakeholders in the sector and they've become quite efficient in the way that they price their product at the right time to really bring in the numbers as well. They've seen a massive growth in terms of occupancy on their side,” Mr Kazim said.

The tourism sector, an important pillar of the emirate's economy, has strongly rebounded from the coronavirus-induced slowdown. Last year, Dubai International Airport retained its crown as the world's busiest international hub for passengers for the 10th consecutive year amid an increase in long-haul travel demand.

From January to March, the Western Europe region was Dubai’s biggest source market with 1.138 million arrivals, followed by South Asia with 869,000 visitors, the DET said.

About 817,000 visitors were recorded from countries belonging to the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Eastern Europe.

“The markets we've seen good growth in is the CIS region, we're still seeing great opportunity there as well. In the US and North America in general we see growth and we see great potential still,” Mr Kazim said.

Dubai’s hotels maintained a room occupancy rate of 83 per cent in the first quarter despite a 2 per cent year-over-year increase in overall room supply, the DET said.

In the first quarter of 2024, there were 11.2 million occupied room nights, representing a 2 per cent increase from the 10.98 million occupied room nights in the same period last year.

Hotel revenue per available room, a crucial gauge of performance for the industry, reached Dh527 ($143.48) in the first quarter, up by 4 per cent compared to the first three months of last year.

“In addition to our high-performing tourism ecosystem, these figures also continue to be spurred by upswings in the number of international businesses setting up, existing companies expanding business lines and catchment footprint from Dubai,” said Helal Al Marri, director general of DET.

DWC's new passenger terminal

Dubai's recently announced new passenger terminal at its second airport at Al Maktoum International – the emirate's second hub known as Dubai World Central (DWC) – will increase capacity to handle the projected 10-year growth in international tourist arrivals, according to Mr Kazim.

“It plays a big role in that … because there are capacity limitations,” he said.

“When we put campaigns out there we can that there is a demand surge, the search for Dubai goes up, bookings for Dubai go up but we are also limited in many cases by airport and airline capacity.”

As Dubai International Airport reaches the limits of its capacity, the move to an expanded new airport at DWC becomes necessary.

“It's time that Dubai actually had an airport that can keep up with the demand that the tourism segment is bringing in,” Mr Kazim said.

“As a logistics hub, being right next to the Jebel Ali Free Zone and creating that logistics corridor … it's not just going to be the [tourism] destination.”

Updated: May 06, 2024, 2:44 PM