Dubai hosts 7.28mn visitors in 2021, hospitality posts pre-COVID level numbers

By Salma C, Intern Reporter
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Dubai Tourism Image
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According to the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), the city welcomed 7.28 million international overnight visitors between January and December 2021, representing 32 percent year-over-year growth (YoY).

The report says international visitation to the city surpassed 3.4 million visitors in the fourth quarter of 2021, achieving 74 percent of the total pre-pandemic tourist arrivals of Q4 2019, and paving the way for hotels in Dubai to deliver a stellar fourth-quarter performance that surpassed pre-pandemic levels.

A positive trend is expected to continue in 2022 and beyond, as visit figures for 2021 underscore the revival and revival of the city’s travel and tourism sector and reiterate tourism’s role as a key driver of economic growth, while Dubai’s recent selection as the ‘world’s most popular destination in 2022’ is further validated by the TripAdvisor Travellers Choice Awards 2022.

HE Helal Saeed Almarri
Helal Saeed Almarri
Director-General – DET

“Under the visionary leadership and guidance of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, our ability and agility in achieving a remarkable turnaround amid continuing global challenges has cemented Dubai’s position as the destination of choice for international travelers.”

The DET Director-General further added that, “The outstanding performance also advances our journey towards becoming the most visited destination and the world’s best city to live and work in. In leading the global tourism recovery with the support of our stakeholders and partners, Dubai constantly set precedents, demonstrating how to safely yet effectively open up to international visitors and, critically, stay open. Dubai’s well-coordinated, consistent, proactive, and creative approach enabled it to lay the groundwork for an accelerated recovery that received a major boost with the opening of Expo 2020 Dubai and the UAE Golden Jubilee celebrations.”

Dubai continued to score high across international indices in 2021, further reinforcing its reputation as a global livability hub and making the multicultural city that is home to over 200 nationalities even more attractive to tourists, investors, creative and cultural talents.

Recent accolades which Dubai has won include

  • No.1 in the MEASA region
  • 12th globally in Julius Baer’s Global Wealth and Lifestyle Report 2021
  • 3rd most desirable destination to live and work in Global Talent Competitive Index
  • 4th best for expatriates to live and work in on HSBC’s 14th annual Expat Explorer Survey 2021
  • The Gallup Global Law and Order 2021 report ranked the city No.1 in the world for walking at night safely
  • 2nd safest country in the world in The Gallup Global Law and Order 2021
  • World’s No.1 destination for ‘City Lovers’
  • 4th destination for ‘Food Lovers’ in Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2022

Overcoming the impact of international travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 in key global markets, Dubai continued to be the first choice as a safe tourism destination, attracting holidaymakers throughout 2021. India delivered 910,000 visitors, followed by 491,000 travelers from Saudi Arabia whilst Russia and the United Kingdom contributed 444,000 visitors and 420,000 visitors respectively.

The regional markets, MENA and GCC collectively contributed 26 percent of the total volumes, reinforcing Dubai’s continued appeal to travelers from proximity markets. Western Europe accounted for 22 percent of total visitors in 2021, with visitation led by the UK, followed by France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. South Asia contributed 18 percent of the international visitation with Russia, CIS, and Eastern Europe together making a 15 percent contribution.

A core pillar of Dubai’s success has been the implementation of innovative global and regional campaigns featuring celebrities, influencers, and community personalities to further highlight the city’s unique appeal and a myriad of experiences. In 2021, the city rolled out the ‘Dubai Presents’ campaign featuring trailers starring Hollywood actors Jessica Alba and Zac Efron.

Mr. Issam Kazim, Chief Executive Officer, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing commented that “Dubai’s successful blueprint to navigate far beyond the pandemic and emerge as a highly competitive, attractive and resilient destination is the result of the constant inspiration from our visionary leadership to position Dubai as the leading city for business, investment, and tourism. In showcasing Dubai as a must-visit destination to an international audience and maintaining momentum, we have leveraged and depended on a combination of factors including our focus on a diversified multi-geographic approach to markets, the strong public-private sector partnerships, and global campaigns designed to create awareness of Dubai, highlight its unique propositions and most importantly emphasize that the city is safe, open and accessible to all.”

The opening of Expo 2020 Dubai on 1 October 2021 marked the start of an incredible new era for the city’s tourism industry, highlighting efforts by Dubai and the UAE to celebrate the best of global business and culture and uniting together with nations in building a better world. As the first in-person global congregation of such magnitude since the onset of the pandemic, Expo 2020 Dubai continues to serve as a magnet, drawing more visitors to the city, attracting 11.6 million visits by residents and global travelers in the space of four months.

With domestic tourism accounting for a large share in the accommodation sector, Dubai’s hotels performed strongly in the fourth quarter to achieve significant growth across all hospitality metrics compared to 2020. For the first time, the hotel sector outperformed pre-pandemic levels across all measurements in Q4 2021 including over 81.4 percent occupancy compared to 80.7 percent occupancy during Q4 2019.

Continued domestic and international investment into the sector also meant that, by the end of 2021, Dubai’s visitors and residents could choose from a total of 755 hotel establishments and 137,950 rooms, compared to 711 hotels establishments that were open with 126,947 rooms at the end of 2020.

Dubai continues to launch bold regulatory initiatives to promote accelerated growth of the tourism sector including streamlining access to the emirate by establishing hassle-free entry procedures for business and leisure travelers, as well as long-term engagement with the city. These include the Five-Year Multi-Entry Visa for employees of multinational companies, and the new timeshare law and portal to help pave the way for a world-class vacation ownership market in Dubai, whilst also providing suitable alternatives to tourists to encourage them to spend multiple and extended holidays in the UAE.

Related: Saudi Arabia unveils new digital strategy to boost tourism sector