Dubai received 8.1 million tourists in the first half of this year, a flat year-on-year growth, but the number of visitors from China and Russia in particular rose sharply, thanks to relaxation in visa requirements for the nationals of the two countries.
“A destination of choice for a number of global markets, Dubai is on track for projected growth into the second half of 2018,” said Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) in a statement on Wednesday.
The number of Chinese visitors grew 9 per cent to 453,000, while Russian travellers climbed by 74 per cent to 405,000, it said.
Dubai, the commercial and tourism hub of the Arabian Gulf that recorded a 6.2 per cent increase in the number of tourists to 15.8 million in 2017, aims to reach the 20 million visitors mark by 2020. The UAE, the second-biggest GCC economy, is implementing a number of measures to boost tourism, including plans to grant visit visa to transit passengers.
“Other levers enabling future growth include the recent introduction of the stopover visa, whereby transit passengers are exempt from all entry fees for the first forty-eight hours of their stay,” said Helal Almarri, director general of Dubai Tourism. “Future visa regulation changes will offer an added benefit for travellers to the UAE over summer, exempting dependents, aged 18 years or below, from visa fees – a move that is expected to boost tourist numbers even further.”
India, Saudi Arabia and the UK maintained their top three spots in terms of Dubai's source markets for tourists. Indian visitors crossed the one million mark, growing by 3 per cent year-on-year in the first half. The US held seventh position with 327,000 visitors, and Germany eighth with 302,000 travellers, Dubai Tourism said.
Western Europe as a region accounted for 21 per cent of aggregate overnight visitors, retaining its position as the largest source market, it added.
“Looking ahead to the second half of 2018, and additional areas of growth for the tourism sector, the recent move to implement a VAT refund mechanism for tourists will also ensure the industry’s competitiveness globally,” said Mr Almarri.