Expo 2020 bid success to boost Dubai's tourism arrivals

Dubai's tourism in the first quarter of the year exceeded targets to register double-digit growth and could peak at more than 25 million by 2020.

Dubai tourism officials are confident of reaching the figure of 20 million tourists a year by 2020 regardless of whether the emirate wins the competition to hold Expo 2020. Razan Alzayani / The National
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

Dubai tourism arrivals are already outpacing official targets as passenger traffic through the airport topped 5 million for a fifth consecutive month.

Tourism chiefs now expect visitors could peak at more than 25 million by the end of the decade if the emirate succeeds in its Expo 2020 bid.

Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) announced this month that it was seeking to double the number of tourists to 20 million by 2020. To achieve this, tourism must grow at a rate of 9 to 10 per cent a year.

Growth in the first three months of 2013 was 10.5 per cent compared with the same period a year ago, according to Helal Almarri, the director general of the DTCM.

"The indicators are very positive," Mr Almarri said. "All indications for Q2 and Q3 are very positive. What Dubai has to offer in the vicinity of its city in terms of variety and in terms of quality of offering is second-to-none globally."

Mr Almarri said he was confident that tourist numbers would remain buoyant during the hot summer period and the holy month of Ramadan, which starts in July.

"Our summer campaign this year is building on the variety of things there are to do," he said. "There's lots of events on for the kids to enjoy. And during Ramadan, for people travelling from outside the region, it's a period where they can really see the culture and the heritage and the religion. We've had a lot of very positive feedback from European travellers who've enjoyed their time here."

When surveyed, 65 per cent of visitors say they are coming to the UAE to understand Emirati culture and religion, according to the tourism chief.

Mr Almarri said that he was confident of reaching the figure of 20 million tourists a year by 2020 regardless of whether the emirate wins the competition to hold Expo 2020. The tourism chief said that winning the world exhibition would draw an extra 5 million tourists who come solely for that event.

Separately, passenger traffic through Dubai International Airport rose 18.7 per cent in April from a year earlier and is expected to maintain that rate of growth in coming months, airport authorities said yesterday. Passenger traffic climbed to 5.42 million people in April, topping 5 million for a fifth consecutive month.

"It is very clear that our growth rate has picked up and that should continue at a similar pace into the next quarter and beyond," said Paul Griffiths, the chief executive of Dubai Airports.

Luring travellers out of the airport into Dubai is a key strategy for boosting visitor numbers, Mr Almarri said.

"One of our segments of traveller is the transit visitor," he said. "Many of the people travelling through Dubai airport [for] a significant portion of them it's the first time they are going through Dubai. So it's their first visit to Dubai and getting them out of the airport even if it's for a short trip - that generally leads to them coming back with their families for a one-week or a two-week holiday."

Mr Almarri was appointed to the post of head of DTCM at the start of this year. He said one of the biggest challenges in his new job is managing growth.

"Growth is always a challenge and you have to manage it," he said. "You don't want a situation where you push too fast on marketing campaigns and more people want to come here than we have capacity for."