Dubai surpasses pre-pandemic international visitation levels in H1 2023 with 20% YoY growth
Dubai’s resurgent tourism industry is celebrating a successful first half of 2023 (H1 2023), after welcoming a record 8.55 million international overnight visitors, compared to 8.36 million tourists in H1 2019.
Surpassing pre-pandemic visitation levels and further bolstering the city’s bid to become the world’s most visited destination, the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) represents the industry’s best ever H1 performance.
The 20 percent year-on-year (YoY) visitation growth contributes to the goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda 2033, launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, to consolidate the emirate’s status as one of the world’s top three cities.
The record H1 performance reflects the successful and diverse city-wide drive to market the destination, with the unwavering support of stakeholders and partners, and under the guidance of Dubai’s visionary leadership. It also reaffirms Dubai’s position as the fastest recovering destination globally, and far exceeds the projection made by the United Nations World Trade Organisation that international tourist arrivals could reach between 80-95 percent of pre-pandemic levels this year.
H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, said, “The remarkable surge in international visitors witnessed by Dubai in the first half of 2023 further demonstrates its emergence as one of the brightest spots not only in the worldwide tourism sector but also the broader global economic landscape. This accomplishment has been made possible by the foresight of Dubai’s leadership, whose vision and prudent polices fortified its resilience in the wake of global challenges and enabled it to rebound more swiftly than other markets. While the growth of international visitation reinforces Dubai’s rise as a major global tourism destination, it also signifies its status as a pivotal hub for trade, investment and enterprise.
“The Dubai Economic Agenda D33, spearheaded by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has outlined an ambitious new trajectory for the city to further consolidate its status as one of the world’s top urban economies and tourism destinations. As a major pillar of Dubai’s economy, the tourism sector will continue to play a key role in realising its future aspirations.”
Crowned No.1 global destination for second year in a row
Dubai’s multifaceted offering and its readiness to cater to travellers of different budgets and preferences saw the city being crowned the No.1 global destination for the second successive year in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2023. This is only the second time in history that a city has won the coveted award for two years in a row. DET’s customised programming across markets focused on showcasing the city’s diverse proposition, spanning many leisure touchpoints from heritage to entertainment, outdoor adventures and beach activities, gastronomy, family-oriented experiences, shopping, festivals, sports and events, as well as yachting and cruise tourism.
Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, commented, “This significant uplift in visitation, which surpasses both pre-pandemic levels and marks a new record for Dubai’s tourism sector, is the result of a highly coordinated, sustainable and robust strategy, that is underpinned by a strong execution mandate and driven forward by the vision and continuous support of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the emirate’s entire leadership, in line with the 10 year Dubai Economic Agenda D33.
“These results further add weight to the depth, scale and resilience of Dubai’s tourism ecosystem, both domestically and across the world, all of which have been instrumental to supporting the city’s highly calibrated and agile strategy for advancing growth over the previous decade, mitigating risk and building a comprehensive framework throughout the entire value chain to drive our ambitions for the coming 10 years. It is the strength of these partnerships, and all our stakeholders, that continues to set us apart. We will continue to invest in such partnerships and all factors that drive the growth of tourism and economic sectors over the long term.”
Robust performance by key regions
In the first half of 2023, Western Europe emerged as a significant contributor to tourism arrivals, making up 20 percent of the total international visitation, while the GCC and MENA regions delivered a combined 28 percent of the regional share, demonstrating Dubai’s allure as a trusted and favoured destination for visitors from neighbouring markets. South Asia held a 17 percent share of the total visitation, and Russia, CIS, and Eastern Europe combined contributed 14 percent. North Asia and South East Asia contributed 8 percent, while the Americas, Africa and Australasia contributed 7 percent, 4 percent and 2 percent, respectively.
Key markets continue to deliver
In collaboration with domestic stakeholders and over 3,000 global partners, targeted campaigns highlighting the city's unique offering, together with its dynamic global appeal and improved connectivity with various continents, resulted in Dubai achieving remarkable growth in key markets in the first half of 2023, notwithstanding current global economic headwinds, and geo-political and air capacity challenges.
Hotels outperform across the board
Dubai’s hotels outperformed pre-pandemic levels across all hospitality metrics in H1 2023 including occupancy, Average Daily Rate (ADR), Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) and length of stay. Among the highest in the world, Dubai hotels’ average occupancy of 78 percent is 2.2 percent points higher than the occupancy achieved for the same period in H1 2019. This growth is particularly noteworthy considering the 13 percent increase in hotel establishments and 26 percent increase in room capacity over the same period in 2019. Continued domestic and international investment into the sector further increased the hotel inventory, and by the end of H1 2023, Dubai’s visitors and residents could choose from a total of 810 hotel establishments and 148,689 rooms, compared to 714 hotel establishments that were open with 118,345 rooms at the end of H1 2019. The robust performance of the hotel sector is also evidenced by the fact that the average length of stay of guests increased to 3.9 nights (up from 3.5 nights in H1 2019), highlighting the city’s appeal for longer-stay travellers, while the total of 20.73 million Occupied Room Nights in the first half of the year represents a 12 percent YoY growth and a 32 percent increase compared to the pre-pandemic period of H1 2019. The average daily rate (ADR) of AED534 during the first six months of the year surpassed the ADR of H1 2019 (AED444), a 20 percent growth, while revenue per available room (RevPAR) of AED415 in H1 2023, surged by 24 percent compared to the first six months of the pre-pandemic period of 2019 (AED336).
Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said, “The H1 industry performance is testament to the future-oriented strategy of our visionary leadership to position Dubai as the best city in the world to visit, live and work. Within a highly competitive global tourism ecosystem, Dubai has continued to accelerate momentum and stay ahead of the curve, primarily by highlighting the diversity of the city's offerings and the flexibility of our portfolio. Central to our success in showcasing Dubai as a must-visit destination is fostering multi-level partnerships between the public and private sectors.
“These collaborations with government entities, industry stakeholders and global partners form the backbone of our growth strategy, paving the way for a well-aligned and united cross-sector endeavour to create a unique positioning and drive international visitation, as well as support the wider talent attraction and economic growth agendas. As we move forward, we remain dedicated to delivering memorable experiences to all our guests, residents and the business and MICE community at large, to set new standards and push the boundaries of excellence globally.”
Cruise and yachting hub of the region
The continuous investment in marine infrastructure and streamlined industry legislation, along with an array of nautical events, combined with year-round sunshine, luxury marinas, diverse tourism offerings, rich maritime history, and picturesque coastline have further elevated Dubai’s standing as a leading cruise and yachting destination. Demonstrating Dubai's position as the region's leading cruise hub, the emirate concluded a highly successful 2022/2023 cruise season, with a 125 percent increase in cruise tourist footfall that saw 762,887 visitors disembarking through the acclaimed Mina Rashid Terminal and the world-class Dubai Harbour. The number of ship calls also surged by 29 percent compared to the previous season.
Dubai’s gastronomy sector shines on global stage
Dubai's focus on its vibrant dining scene has helped placed the city on the global gastronomic stage. The launch of the second edition of the MICHELIN Guide Dubai, featuring a total of 90 restaurants, including 17 Bib Gourmand winners, and the inclusion of three Dubai restaurants in the World's Best Restaurants List for 2023 have contributed raising Dubai’s international profile as a culinary destination. The city’s 13,000 restaurants and cafes that represent the cultures and cuisines of over 200 nationalities and catering to diverse culinary tastes, have consolidated its global appeal as a gastronomic hub. Gault&Millau, one of the world’s widely respected fine dining food critique brands has also established itself in the city’s gastronomy scene with its annual UAE Guide featuring top gourmet dining restaurants.
An international events destination
Dubai's commitment to fostering a diverse events sector is reflected in its hosting of world-renowned festivals, and leisure and business events in H1 2023. These include the Dubai Food Festival 2023 and Dubai Esports and Games Festival, in addition to the Dubai Summer Surprises. Events such as Gulfood and Arabian Travel Market highlighted Dubai's position as a preferred destination for business travellers. The MICE industry also played a significant role in Dubai's success in the first half of 2023. Looking ahead, Dubai will host the Dubai Fitness Challenge in October and the 28th edition of the Dubai Shopping Festival in December.
Focus on sustainability
With 2023 designated as UAE’s Year of Sustainability, Dubai has ramped up efforts to achieve its goal of becoming a leading sustainable destination, consistently supporting UAE's Net Zero 2050, a national drive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. DET has taken the lead in implementing various activities under its Dubai Sustainable Tourism initiative including the newly launched ‘Dubai Sustainable Tourism Stamp’, a new initiative that seeks to recognise hotels with the highest adherence to DET’s 19 ‘Sustainability Requirements’. These 19 standards include energy and water efficiency, waste management, and staff education and engagement initiatives aimed at supporting hotels to achieve all of their sustainability goals. Dubai is also gearing up to hosting COP28, the UN Climate Change Conference at Expo City Dubai later this year.
In collaboration with its stakeholders and partners, DET will continue to pursue additional pathways to economic and tourism success, ensuring the city remains a hub of creativity, innovation, and technological advancement, attracting talented individuals from around the world, and creating significant opportunities and added value for residents and visitors.
(Hazem Hussein/ Khoder Nashar)