Dubai has recorded a strong 6.2 percent year-on-year increase in international overnight visitation in 2017, accelerating the 5 percent growth witnessed in the previous year and propelling the emirate’s momentum towards its 2020 goal of welcoming 20 million visitors per year. According to the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Dubai Tourism, a total of 15.79 million tourists visited Dubai last year, setting a new record for the emirate.

Commenting on the annual performance, Helal Saeed Almarri, Director-General of Dubai Tourism, said, “Under the visionary leadership of the Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emirate has continued to capture share of the global outbound travel market, complemented by a significant increase in tourism-driven economic contribution to the country’s GDP. Our strong 6.2 percent growth in 2017 has allowed us to ramp up the pace towards meeting our 2020 targets, and today Dubai’s travel and tourism sector is not only well positioned to offer a superlative destination experience across its eight core strategic propositions, but also geared to accelerate its appeal to the diverse and evolving needs of our global travellers.

“With Dubai firmly consolidating its position as the fourth most visited city globally, we remain confident that our performance, backed by the continued strength of our partnerships across government and private sector stakeholders, will enable us to successfully attain our goals of becoming the #1 most visited city as well as being the most recommended with the highest number of repeat Dubai loyalists.”

In terms of country-specific performance, India retained top spot in 2017, contributing 2.1 million visitors, becoming the first country to cross the 2 million mark in a single year. The country’s performance represented a 15 percent year-on-year increase and validated, among other factors, the success of Dubai Tourism’s ongoing collaboration with Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan in the multi award-winning #BeMyGuest campaign.

Saudi Arabia maintained its second place, contributing a total of 1.53 million tourists last year, down 7 percent. Third-placed UK, meanwhile, delivered 1.27 million travellers, rising 2 percent over 2016.

Impressive results from some of Dubai’s remaining top 10 source markets for inbound tourism included fifth-placed China with 764,000 tourists, up 41 percent, while eighth-placed Russia with 530,000 visitors, a 121 percent increase over the previous year, both benefiting from easier access following the introduction of visa-on-arrival facilities to Chinese and Russian citizens in late 2016 and early 2017, respectively. Also increasing were visitors from the USA, Germany and Iran, at 633,000, 506,000 and 503,000 visitors respectively.

Western Europe replaced the GCC as Dubai’s main regional source market with a 21 percent share, contributing more than 3.2 million travellers, up 5.5 percent. Although last year’s top performer ended 2017 in second place, the GCC region still maintained a high share of volume at 19 percent, delivering an overall 3.02 million travellers to Dubai. This 4 percentage point decline in GCC share was, however, effectively countered by year-on-year increases in tourist volumes from all other regional source markets except Australasia.

The South Asia region, in third place, contributed an 18 percent share of over 2.8 million visitors, up a strong 10.6 percent, followed by the Middle East and North Africa, MENA, and North and South-East Asia regions in joint fourth position, each contributing close to 1.7 million visitors and independently commanding 11 percent share, the former recording a 3.2 percent increase and the latter, an impressive 23.6 percent over 2016 visitation figures.

Dubai’s regional mix saw the biggest year-on-year gain of 51.8 percent from the Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe block, contributing more than 1.1 million visitors and representing a share of 7 percent; the Americas with a 6 percent share made up of just under 1 million visitors, up 7.7 percent; the Africa region with a 5 percent share made up of more than 780,000 travellers, up 6.7 percent; and finally Australasia with a 2 percent share of overall volumes, with a total of just under 340,000 visitors.

Almarri continued, “Dubai’s strong performance in 2017 can be attributed to the effectiveness of Dubai Tourism’s three-pronged strategic framework, focused on market diversity, agility and personalisation in outreach, and continuous proposition evolution. Through the past year, our numbers demonstrate our growing destination appeal and competitiveness, mitigating single-market exposure – none of which would be possible without the strength of our partnerships across the government, public and private sectors. Going forward, this commitment to collaboration across our tourism ecosystem stakeholders is crucial as we work towards our shared goals.”

By the end of 2017, a total of 107,431 keys were available across all hotel and hotel apartment establishments, representing growth of 4 percent on the previous year. Within this, the most significant expansion of inventory came within the 4-star segment, with a 10 percent increase to 25,289 rooms.

“At the same time, as the destination offering continues to evolve, maintaining momentum will be crucial as we look to remain on track to achieve our Tourism Vision 2020 goals,” Al Marri concluded. “In this Year of Zayed, we seek to uphold the noble values instilled by the late Sheikh Zayed – including those of wisdom, respect and determination – as we further build on the progress already made. It is incumbent on Dubai Tourism and all stakeholders to not only consolidate existing efforts, but to continue to embrace innovation and new trends. In 2017, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid initiated Dubai 10X, which calls on all Dubai Government entities to embrace disruptive innovation as a fundamental mantra of their operations and to seek ways to incorporate its methodologies in all aspects of their work. In 2018, our activities will reflect this mantra, with projects and initiatives designed to leverage new technologies and build on our ‘digital, mobile and social first’ agenda,” Almarri added.

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