Dubai hosted 7.12 million international visitors in the first half of 2022, nearly three times the 2.52 million tourists recorded in the same period last year, as it pursues its goal to become the world's most visited destination.
The number brings the emirate closer to its pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels of 8.36 million arrivals in the first six months of 2019, despite the impact of “unprecedented challenges” and “macroeconomic factors” affecting the global economy and tourism sector, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) said in a statement.
The government agency attributed the surge in visitor numbers to the momentum generated by Expo 2020 Dubai, which ended on March 31, and the emirate's status as a safe destination.
Hosting leisure and business events — including the Dubai Shopping Festival, the World Government Summit and the Arabian Travel Market — also boosted visitor numbers.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the emirate's Executive Council, said the city's efforts to become “the world’s best place to live, work and invest in” had contributed to the resurgence of Dubai’s tourism sector.
The growth in the number of tourist arrivals “reflects the resilience and dynamism of the emirate’s economy”, he said.
“The rapid rise in international tourist arrivals puts Dubai on track to achieve its ambitious target of becoming the world’s most-visited destination,” said Sheikh Hamdan.
The emirate — the Middle East's travel, trade and finance centre — relied on the tourism industry for 11.6 per cent of its gross domestic product in 2019.
The sector is recovering quickly from the impact of the coronavirus-induced slowdown, helped by the UAE's effective containment of Covid-19 and the easing of travel restrictions globally.
The travel and tourism sector plays a key role in Dubai's non-oil private sector economy, which expanded at its quickest pace in three years in June, the headline S&P purchasing managers' indexfor the emirate showed.
Surveyed businesses reported a marked improvement in tourism-related business activity in Dubai as travel restrictions continued to ease around the world.
Dubai's top source markets
The first-half rise in international visitor numbers was helped by the emirate's focus on diversifying its source markets, the DET said.
Western Europe and the GCC each accounted for 22 per cent of the overall number of tourists to Dubai.
South Asia made up 16 per cent, the Mena region contributed 12 per cent while Russia, the Commonwealth of Independent States and eastern Europe together accounted for 11 per cent of total visitors to Dubai.
“The wide geographic spread reflects Dubai’s diversified strategy aimed at driving traffic from a broad spectrum of countries and visitor segments, mitigating the risks associated with over-reliance on any one region,” DET said.
India, Oman, Saudi Arabia, the UK and Russia were the top five source markets for visitors to Dubai
Dubai's hotels busier
The surge in international visitors helped to fill Dubai's hotels during the reporting period, raising occupancy levels, despite an increase in hotel room capacity, the DET's data showed.
The average hotel occupancy rate between January and June rose to 74 per cent, one of the world’s highest, compared with 62 per cent in the same period a year ago.
This was slightly lower than the 76 per cent occupancy rate recorded during the same period in 2019, before the onset of the pandemic.
Hotels were busier, despite a 19 per cent increase in room capacity over the same period in 2019.
Dubai’s hotel inventory by the end of June 2022 comprised 140,778 rooms across 773 hotel establishments, up from 118,345 rooms across 714 establishments at the end of June 2019, the DET said.
Meanwhile, the total number of hotels in the first half of 2022 grew by an annual 8 per cent as investors continued to back Dubai's tourism sector.
Revenue per available room (RevPar) — a key industry metric — for hotels in the emirate surged by an annual 76 per cent to Dh417 ($113.55). RevPar also increased 24 per cent from the 2019 first-half level of Dh336.
The average daily rate of Dh567 in the first half exceeded the levels recorded in the same period in 2021 (Dh382) and 2019 (Dh444), growing 48.5 per cent and 28 per cent, year on year, respectively.
The GCC's hospitality industry will return to pre-coronavirus levels in 2022, boosted by an increase in the number of tourist arrivals, easing visa regulations and the hosting of big events such as the Fifa World Cup in Qatar, according to Alpen Capital.
The industry's revenue is set to grow by 74.8 per cent a year to $26.3 billion in 2022, as regional governments invest heavily in developing business, leisure and entertainment centres, it said in a report last week.