Dubai is a destination of choice
Bluewaters Island, a new tourism project adjacent to Dubai Marina, will be home to a number of residential and commercial projects such as penthouses, shopping malls and beach clubs. The centerpiece of Bluewaters Island is Ain Dubai, the largest Ferris wheel in the world. Another major coastal tourist attraction being built in Dubai is Marsa Arab that encompasses two man-made islands. The development will add 2.2 km of beach frontage to Dubai’s coastline, with one of the islands dedicated to entertainment and family tourism.
Dubai is also building the Deira Islands Night Souk, billed as the largest night market in the world. The venue forms part of the AED6.1 billion Deira Island, a 15.3 sq kilometre waterfront city that features four islands. Another new project, the Dubai Creek Harbour, will be home to the city’s tallest building, the $1 billion Santiago Calatrava-designed Dubai Tower. The 6 million sq metre Dubai Creek Harbour will be twice the size of Downtown Dubai when it is fully completed in 2025.
Dubai’s strong connectivity and transportation infrastructure has been another major driver in its tourism surge. Last year, Dubai International (DXB) retained its position as the world’s busiest airport with the number of travellers passing through its terminals growing to nearly 90 million. Dubai International has been crowned as the world's busiest hub for international travel for a few years now since outranking London Heathrow in 2014.
Meanwhile, Emirates, Dubai’s flagship airline, carried over 59 million passengers on about 3,700 passenger flights on average per week in 2018. At a time when the global aviation industry is experiencing a slowdown, Emirates operated over 192,000 flights, with its fleet of 274 aircraft in 2018 to its global network of 157 destinations.
Never used to sitting on its laurels, Dubai is seeking to build on the substantial growth it has seen in the past decade by setting an ambitious target of welcoming 25 million visitors by the year 2025. The target, part of the Dubai Tourism Strategy launched last year, aims to strengthen Dubai’s position as one of the most visited cities in the world. Designed to provide a strong impetus to its global competitiveness, the Strategy is focused on ensuring that Dubai is not impacted by fundamental changes in the future. The emirate has already rolled out plans to boost its growth in major tourist exporting markets and diversify sources from high-potential markets.
Tourist inflows to Dubai already boast a diverse global spread. Last year, Western Europe emerged as the largest contributor of overnight visitor volumes for 2018, commanding a 21 per cent share, to maintain its pole position from 2017. This was closely followed by the GCC and South Asia, contributing 18 and 17 per cent of all international visitation to the city respectively. North Asia and South-East Asia regions accounted for 11 per cent.
The close proximity markets across the MENA region also delivered steady growth volumes of ten per cent while Russia, the wider CIS and Eastern Europe collectively delivered nine per cent of the total visitation, a two per cent increase from 2017. The Americas and Africa each contributed six per cent of the volume base, and Australasia rounded off the regional mix with two per cent of market share in 2018, largely driven by stop-over travellers.
The last year has seen Dubai ramping up efforts to attract more tourists from Russia, the CIS, Latin America and the Nordics, especially Sweden. Promotional activity in China was boosted by a "highly successful" marketing campaign in collaboration with Chinese social media influencers in 2017.
The emirate is also making a renewed push to grow sectors like cruise tourism for which it has shown considerable growth potential. Last year, the ‘Dubai Cruise Terminal’ was made the main hub for cruise tourism in Dubai. The sector was further boosted by a strategic partnership between Meraas and Carnival Corporation aimed at transforming Dubai into a major regional maritime tourism hub.
Dubai is also seeking to push the frontiers of passenger experience and technology. Emirates is gearing up to launch the world’s first integrated ‘biometric path’ at Terminal 3, Dubai International airport, which will enable passengers to walk through a tunnel and be "cleared" by immigration authorities without human intervention or the need for a physical passport stamp.
Major changes in the UAE’s visa regime last year have also significantly enhanced Dubai’s status as a tourist-friendly destination. Transit passengers are now exempted from all entry fees for the first 48 hours and a transit visa can be extended for up to 96 hours for a fee of only Dh50. Obtaining a transit visa is easily facilitated by a number of express counters across UAE airports.
With a series of regulatory, infrastructure, technological and marketing initiatives to boost tourism, Dubai is all set to rise in the ranking of the world’s most visited cities. The next few years could well see the city developing into the world’s most popular destination.
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