UAE's tourism sector growth in first quarter outpaced pre-pandemic levels

Revenues of hotels in the country reached $2.9bn in the three-month period as visitor numbers picked up

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The UAE's tourism sector growth during the first quarter of this year outpaced the rates seen in 2019, before the Covid-19 pandemic, making it one of the best quarters for the local tourism industry, the UAE's Ministry of Economy has said.

The performance made it "one of the best years in terms of economic growth in general and tourism in particular", said Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and SMEs and chairman of the UAE Tourism Council.

The tourism sector's growth was largely due to the "the unlimited support and directives of the UAE’s wise leadership and its interest in this vital sector, which is deemed one of the future sectors and a key focus area in the UAE’s development vision for the next 50 years", he added.

Hotels across the UAE received about six million visitors in the three-month period, who spent 25 million hotel nights. This was up 10 per cent compared to the same period in 2019.

Revenues of hotels grew to Dh11 billion ($2.9bn) in the quarter, up 20 per cent compared with the first quarter of 2019.

The global travel and tourism sector has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, rattled by border closures to stem the spread of the virus. But the sector has recovered, with international tourist arrivals more than doubling in January alone this year, compared to the same period in 2021, according to the World Tourism Organisation, a UN agency.

The UAE executed one of the fastest inoculation campaigns in the world, which, in turn, boosted economic recovery and helped to attract tourists over the past year. The government also adopted a number of steps to accelerate the tourism sector's recovery in the UAE.

Last year, the Emirates Tourism Council formed a joint action plan with the Ministry of Economy and local tourism departments to increase the inflow of international tourists to the UAE, as well as prioritise new source markets to attract visitors.

Large-scale campaigns promoting several “promising destinations”, introducing long-term and multiple-entry tourist visas — recently announced by the government — and marketing the country's major tourism spots were part of the plan.

The UAE registered a strong inflow of tourists during the first quarter this year. Hotels in the Emirates received four million international visitors with India, Saudi Arabia, the UK, Russia, and the US being the top source markets.

The average duration of hotel guest stays during the period rose from three nights to four, while the occupancy rate of hotels touched 80 per cent, one of the highest globally, the ministry said.

The recent figures "reflect the growing confidence of visitors in the national tourism sector and the UAE’s reputation as a safe and favourable destination capable of providing a rich and distinguished tourism experience", Mr Al Falasi said.

Events such as Expo 2020 Dubai, which attracted more than 24m visitors over six months, and the World’s Coolest Winter campaign, which generated a total revenue of Dh1.5bn and attracted more than 1.3m local tourists, also contributed to the growth of the industry, he added.

Updated: May 19, 2022, 2:03 PM