Hotels in the UAE hosted 19 million tourists in 2021 as the sector rebounded strongly from the Covid-19 pandemic, which hit the hospitality industry hard, the Emirates Tourism Council said.
The country's hotels hosted 29 per cent more visitors last year compared to 2020 and generated revenue of Dh28 billion ($7.6bn), a 70 per cent surge compared to the previous year, the council said in a statement on Wednesday.
Domestic tourists accounted for 58 per cent of the total number of guests.
The council reviewed the UAE's plans to develop a tourism data system in accordance with global standards and promote tourism in foreign markets to attract more visitors.
“This shows a full recovery of the national tourism sector and confirms the positive direction it is increasingly achieving,” said Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs, who presided the council's first meeting of 2022.
The UAE's tourism industry recovered well from the Covid-19 crisis thanks to stringent safety measures, a massive vaccination campaign and well-planned programmes to get the sector back on track safely.
More than 75 million hotel nights were booked last year, a 42 per cent annual increase, while the occupancy rate hit 67 per cent, among the highest when compared to leading tourist destinations worldwide, the council said.
The number of hotels in the UAE rose 5 per cent year-on-year to 1,144 in 2021, while the number of hotel rooms increased 8 per cent to 194,000 rooms across the country.
The UAE hotels sector also posted a strong start to this year on the back of Expo 2020 Dubai and returning international visitors, a report by JLL found.
The completion of about 3,500 rooms and suites across Dubai projects resulted in total stock reaching 144,000 in the first quarter, with occupancy rate surging more than 77 per cent in January and February, the property consultancy said.
In Abu Dhabi as well, the occupancy rate was at 75 per cent in the first two months of the year.
Among the primary drivers of the momentum were beachfront and luxury developments, thanks to stronger demand for leisure properties, as well as upmarket and midmarket hotels that posted higher average daily rates, JLL said.
The UAE also announced visa policy changes this month which are expected to boost tourism. Under the new visa rules, the country will allow visitors and holidaymakers to enter and stay for 60 days as standard, from September.
Mr Al Falasi acknowledged the vital role major events have played in reviving the tourism industry, most notably the world's fair, which attracted more than 24 million visitors in six months, and the second ‘most beautiful winter in the world’ campaign, which hosted more than 1.3 million domestic tourists and generated revenue of about Dh1.5bn in one and a half months.
The council also discussed the Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), one of the projects for tourism development in the UAE, comprising more than 15 federal and local government bodies.
It aims to develop a national integrated statistics organisation that will contribute to transparency and the development of technology to support the decision-making process in the country.
The UAE has also signed an agreement with the United Nations World Tourism Organisation to support the development of this statistics system, with the latter to provide technical and knowledge support.
The TSA will play an important role in "increasing the efficiency of the country's tourism statistics system" by measuring the sector's economic indicators and its contribution to the national economy and the labour market, the statement said.