Dubai marks a year since the reopening of its borders to international tourists on July 7, 2020. Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) reported that the city welcomed 3.7 million overnight visitors during the 11-month period from July 2020 to May 2021.
Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai said: “We have seen inspiring commitment and pro activity from all stakeholders in the public and private sector to work together to adopt innovative approaches that can consolidate the sustainable recovery of the sector.
“Furthermore, Dubai’s ability to implement a rigorous precautionary protocol regime has made the city one of the world’s safest destinations for travelers. As we gear up to host Expo 2020, these exceptional standards will enable us ensure the event provides the highest global benchmarks of safety and security for all visitors.”
The emirate received more than 1.7 million visitors between July and December 2020 from markets that were open, and an additional two million visitors in the first five months of 2021.
The emirate witnessed a demand for staycations among UAE residents, both Emiratis and expatriates from over 200 nationalities during this period and this drove tourism growth with hotel occupancy rising significantly from 35 per cent in July 2020 to 58 per cent in May 2021. Weekend hotel deals and discounts encouraged residents to explore new hotels and resorts within the emirates.
Hotel occupancy in Dubai peaked in December 2020 (69 per cent) and in January 2021 (66 per cent) with the city ranking second globally in terms of occupancy after Singapore and ahead of Paris and London, according to data from hotel management analytics firm STR. Notably, the average daily rate (ADR) recovered from AED238 ($65) in July 2020 to AED383 ($104) in May 2021.
A total of 591 hotel establishments with 100,000 rooms were operating in July 2020 in full compliance with health and safety protocols. This has now increased to 715 hotel establishments offering 128,000 rooms in May 2021.
The concerted efforts of Dubai Tourism and partners to drive demand for domestic travel saw city hotels welcoming 5.5 million domestic visitors for the period between July 2020 and May 2021, compared to 2.66 million domestic hotel arrivals during the period July 2019 to May 2020, an astounding year-on year growth of 106 per cent.
The hotels also enjoyed an average 56 per cent occupancy during the Eid Al Fitr holiday week in May 2021, which though less than the average occupancy of 62 per cent during the Eid week in 2019, highlighted the crucial role played by the domestic market in Dubai’s tourism recovery. Furthermore, domestic hotel arrivals during the Eid week in May 2021 accounted for 62 per cent of all hotel guest arrivals compared to 47 per cent in 2019.
The road to recovery
The emirates put in place a variety of safety initiatives, based on the guidelines of Dubai’s Supreme Committee of Crisis and Disaster Management, including a wide range of precautionary measures, in addition to effective testing and vaccination programs. As on July 4, the country had administered over 15.53 million vaccine doses and according to Bloomberg’s vaccine tracker data, the UAE had overtaken the Seychelles to become the most vaccinated country. During the July 2020 – June 2021 period, Dubai held several international leisure events, as well as all major annual festivals and events including the much-awaited Dubai Summer Surprises (DSS), Dubai Fitness Challenge (DFC) and the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) with precautionary measures across the board. The recently launched 24th edition of DSS will further amplify the city’s position as the summer destination of choice for families and a year-round international events hub.
In addition to restarting leisure events, Dubai also developed a successful model for the recovery of the business events sector, which paved the way for the resumption of international events in October and subsequently the hosting of mega events such as GITEX in December 2020 and Gulfood, Arabian Travel Market and Arab Health in February, May and June respectively this year.
Since September 2020 to mid-May, Dubai hosted a total of 3,136 business events that were attended by 813,832 delegates. Building on these homegrown events, Dubai also resumed the hosting of conferences and congresses from around the around, in many cases providing organizations and association the opportunity to resume their face-to-face meeting activities and presenting a viable alternative to their original plans.
New tourism strategy
In 2020, Dubai Tourism launched their Retire in Dubai programme offering resident expatriates and foreigners aged 55 years and above the opportunity to retire and enjoy a distinct lifestyle in the emirate, as well as a Virtual Working programme that enabled overseas professionals to work remotely based in Dubai. This followed the 2019 implementation of the long-term Golden Visa programme allowed individuals to apply for 10 and 5-year residency, targeted at investors, entrepreneurs, specialized talent in art, medical and scientific fields, as well as students and property owners.
Dubai also launched other pioneering projects and program that will support tourism growth including the new Al Quoz Creative Zone, a dynamic hub for artists and designers. A host of new developments are set to expand the diversity of Dubai’s offering and add to the momentum of recovery including Ain Dubai, the world’s tallest observation wheel, and the Museum of the Future.