Dubai’s tourism industry closed a successful decade at the end of 2019, welcoming 16.73 million international overnight visitors, an all-time high, and an impressive 5.1 percent increase in tourism volumes, surpassing the global tourism growth forecast by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation by over one percent.
With momentum firmly tracking against Dubai’s Tourism Vision 2022-25, latest data released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) reflects the sector’s exponential progress in a compressed time-frame relative to peers, culminating in Dubai being ranked the World’s Fourth Most Visited City for the fifth consecutive year by MasterCard’s Global Destination Cities Index 2019.
Rapidly gaining traction on the ‘travel wish list’ for today’s global traveller, 2019 not only delivered record tourist arrivals and indicated strong desirability for future visits, but also reinforced tourism’s role as a key economic growth driver. Contributing an impressive 11.5 per cent in GDP value, Dubai’s tourism sector was ranked one of ‘Top 10’ strongest economic share generators, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Cities Report 2019. The Report also ranked Dubai the third-largest city in capturing direct international tourism spending with a total of US $27.9 billion.
Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General, Dubai Tourism, said, “The strong performances across our diversified spectrum of traditional strongholds and fast-growing high-value segments have continued to solidify the global competitiveness and sustained resilience of Dubai’s tourism sector. This past decade, and 2019 in particular, have delivered unmatched acceleration in Dubai’s stature as a ‘Destination of Choice’ for global travellers assuring advancement towards the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai to make it the number one most visited, preferred and revisited global city.”
Almarri added, “In 2020, we will continue to accelerate the tourism momentum by showcasing Dubai’s event hosting capabilities in the run-up to Expo 2020.”
The impressive growth is evidenced by Dubai’s top six source markets – India, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Oman, China and Russia – delivering over seven million visitors in 2019, with nine of the top 10 countries crossing half a million visitors each for the first time, highlighting the robust diversity of Dubai’s base for tourist attraction.
Results revealed India once again retained its No.1 market status, drawing the highest visitation with nearly two million visitors, thanks to high-impact delivery of timely, seasonal messaging, and segment-specific campaigns.
Coming in strong at No. 2, KSA consolidated its position as the GCC’s highest traffic generator, with 1.6 million Saudis visiting Dubai. The UK, meanwhile, remained Dubai’s third-largest source market, with an impressive 1.2 million British travellers visiting the city in 2019.
As the second-highest volume driver for the GCC, Oman secured the fourth spot in 2019, with a sharp 24.3 percent spike to deliver over a million visitors, attributable in large part to Dubai Tourism’s innovative range of seasonal campaigns and a strong annual programme of custom activations for the market.
Poised to break the one million barrier in 2020, fifth-placed China registered 989,000 visitors to Dubai in 2019 at a 15.5 percent year-on-year growth, more than doubling its 450,000 volume from just four years ago before the impactful regulatory easing of accessibility with the introduction of the visa-on-arrival provision for this market.
Despite airlift constraints and aggressive competitor pricing, Dubai retained attractiveness for Russia on the back of a strong fourth-quarter rally to take the sixth spot with 728,000 visitors at a strong 7.4 percent growth. The USA followed right behind with a two percent increase to reach 667,000 visitors, while Germany took eighth place with 560,000 visitors.
Closing out the top 10 markets, Pakistan crossed the half a million mark with 501,000 visitors, while the Philippines impressed again with a dramatic 23.2 percent increase, cementing its status as a top 10 feeder, delivering 477,000 visitors to Dubai.
Some noteworthy highlights from the top 20 list include France with 382,000 visitors, Egypt with 314,000 visitors and Italy with 247,000 visitors, followed closely by Nigeria at 246,000 tourist arrivals.
Complementing its Russian counterpart, the CIS region made a first-time appearance in this category with newcomer Kazakhstan leading the bloc with a 23 percent growth to round off the top 20 with 147,000 visitors.
Performance results at a regional level showcased Dubai’s continued attractiveness to Western Europe amidst a recessionary economy and a strong US dollar limiting Dubai’s price competitiveness, as it emerged on top of the contributor list with a 20 percent share and 3.4 million tourists. Close on its heels, the GCC brought in over three million visitors, followed by South Asia with 2.7 million visitors, each contributing 18 and 16 percent of international visitation to the city, respectively.
With a strong 12 percent share from North-East Asia and South-East Asia and the proximate Middle East and North African region accounting for a further 10 percent, the numbers reflected both the sustained level of demand conversion and the widespread global consideration for Dubai.
Dubai remained among the most preferred destinations for segments across the Russia, CIS and Eastern European economies that collectively drove nine percent of the volumes, with 1.6 million visitors, while the Americas and Africa followed, each with six percent of the share. Australasia rounded off the regional mix with two percent of the tourist contribution.
In a major boost for the city’s tourism sector, Dubai has been named one of the world’s top 10 cities for travellers to visit in 2020 by global travel authority, Lonely Planet, which announced its “Best in Travel 2020” list last October. Dubai’s attractiveness as a tourist hotspot was also acknowledged by major publications and news outlets such as CNN, Conde Nast Traveller, Travel & Leisure, Afar, Forbes and others.