Dubai welcomed 4.75 million international overnight visitors in the first quarter of 2019, posting over two per cent increase in tourism volumes compared to the same period last year according to the latest data released by Dubai’s Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism).
Steadily picking up from a stable 2018 performance, Dubai’s tourism sector saw optimistic indicators from its top volume generators and its emerging growth drivers, setting the pace for 2019 both in terms of visitation numbers and GDP contribution. In key highlights, India started strong, holding on to its position as Dubai’s largest source market, while the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and the UK maintained their second and third positions respectively, as the city continued to refresh its proposition and sustain its dynamic appeal to these traditional bases.
His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai Tourism commented: “Tourism as a sector continues to be one of the most interconnected, and consequently highly diversified pillars of Dubai’s GDP, making our economic contribution imperative for collective growth.
Our Vision 2022-25, as set out by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is backed by several targeted strategic programmes for delivery by 2020-22, of which over 70% are well under-way already.
We recognise the need for accelerated delivery to ensure that Dubai becomes the #1 most visited, preferred and revisited global city for both leisure and business travellers. Equally in this age of disruptive yet progressive technological pervasiveness impacting every sector and most dramatically, the likes of travel and hospitality, we seek to assure even greater relevance and ‘top of mind’ consideration of our modern traveller, through agility, dynamic evolution and multifaceted experience delivery.
These fundamentals have in essence guided all of our initiatives, investments and outreach campaigns over the past 12-15 months as we remain focused on innovative, efficient and impactful destination promotion aided by credible global partnerships and deep-rooted stakeholder networks across our markets.
Our first quarter is an encouraging reflection of the success of our various ongoing initiatives and the efforts of all our industry partners – not just in our attraction of visitation through successful implementation of Dubai Tourism’s planned calendar of regional and global campaigns, but also through customised itinerary programming and most importantly, in-city ‘guest promise’ delivery.”
The success of the emirate’s in-city delivery alignment efforts among all involved stakeholders is reflected in the Dubai International Visitor Survey that monitors audience sentiment and traveller engagement at relevant touch points across various destination pillars. The results of the latest survey revealed that 99.8 per cent of visitors were ‘happy’ or ‘extremely happy, while 99.7 per cent of visitors are likely to recommend Dubai to friends or family, reflecting a strong advocacy base.
On the destination marketing side, awareness, consideration and conversion effectiveness of the strategies and targeted campaign delivery yielded tangible results in Q1 2019. India drew the highest visitation with 564,836 visitors, followed by a strong 411,586 tourists from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), remaining the highest traffic volume generator for the GCC. The UK, meanwhile, retained its third position with an impressive 326,586 British travellers in just the first three months this year.
Growth from China continued at a high 13 per cent year-on-year, aided commendably by Dubai’s ‘China Readiness’ strategy, as 291,662 Chinese chose to visit the city, particularly driving their New Year holiday period in February. Oman followed in fifth place, topping the charts as the fastest growing source country with a stellar 27 per cent increase to deliver 263,182 visitors. Despite capacity constraints and strong competitor pricing, Dubai retained its attractiveness for Russia, welcoming 234,142 visitors, even as Germany was close at its heels with a 5% growth delivering 203,651 visitors.
Rounding off the top ten feeder markets, the USA witnessed a three per cent surge with 185,864 visitors, while Pakistan, in ninth place, welcomed 137,015 travellers followed by France with 121,189 overnight guests, rising two ranks with an impressive 17 per cent year-on-year increase.
From a regional perspective, Western Europe made strong contributions in overnight visitor volumes during Q1 2019, commanding a 23 per cent share compared to 2018 to maintain its leadership position, followed by the GCC and South Asia, contributing 17 and 16 per cent of all international visitation to the city respectively. North Asia and South-East Asia accounted for 11 per cent to reflect sustained interest and rising consideration for Dubai.
Markets across the MENA region, the wider CIS and Eastern Europe also maintained volumes of ten per cent each, while the Americas contributed seven per cent of the volume base. Africa delivered five per cent of the total visitation volumes, and Australasia rounded off the regional mix with one per cent of the market share. The diversified regional performance is a testament to the success of the Emirate’s continued globalization approach.
Performance across global markets in the first three months of 2019 was spurred by fully-integrated series of destination campaigns, ranging from seasonal multi-geography tactical programmes to niche audience specific high-impact initiatives and the entire spectrum of marketing promotions activities in between. One such example was the most recent edition of the multi-award-winning #BeMyGuest campaign with megastar Shah Rukh Khan, focused on the sub-content diaspora and the global ‘Bollywood’ fan base topping charts with 160 million views in its third edition.
This content series was incepted in December 2016, and has won international acclaim for its creativity and marketing innovation including the Grand Prix at the International Tourism Film Festival, ‘Tourfilm Riga’ held in Latvia, and the Diamond at ITB Berlin’s ‘Golden City Gate’ Tourism Awards.
Taking innovation a step further into technological enablement, Dubai Tourism partnered with Alipay for the 2019 Chinese New Year campaign to activate a series of market promotions through this world-leading mobile payment and lifestyle platform.
To showcase the authenticity of Dubai’s unique propositions to Chinese travellers, Dubai Tourism also further extended the campaign by adding the first-of-its-kind 360-degree gamification, allowing audiences to join local Emirati guides on an immersive online treasure hunt and capture interesting and unique parts of the city in search of luck – reflecting a reverence to this traditional aspect of the festival as well. The impact of such interactive user engagements with the city on digital platforms, is evident in the elevated interest levelsas social interactions reached over 18 million and video views clocked in at 64.7million.
With a conversion-driven orientation, Dubai’s spring campaign targeted a broad base of European travellers seeking respite from winter, showcasing the city’s best seasonal proposition and fully linked to the trade networks for itineraries and packages to drive bookings. Built on core travel passion points such as leisure activities, adventure escapes and rich gastronomy, the campaign employed nine immersive microfilms across social channels to yield over 300 million views.
The first quarter of the year also saw results with leisure-related experiential offerings expanding to include Bluewaters Island, located off the coast of Jumeirah Beach Residence, with the upcoming Ain Dubai – the world’s largest observation wheel – set to become the centerpiece of the island’s various retail, residential, hospitality and entertainment zones. 2019 also saw the opening of The Pointe – a 1.4 million square foot waterfront dining and entertainment development overlooking Atlantis The Palm Jumeirah.
Shedding light on some of the city’s lesser known facets and untouched natural habitats, Dubai recently launched the Al Marmoom Bedouin Experience located in the UAE’s first national park and the largest tourism project activated in the region focusing on the desert environment, in conjunction with Dubai’s recent drive to showcase ecological diversity with the unspoilt mountainous enclaves of Hatta – rapidly gaining popularity with adventure-seekers and nature-lovers.
The city continued its focus on providing tourists with ready access to a multitude of potential experiences – from city to beach to desert to hills, all within a short drive – delivering a powerful competitive positioning that is unique to Dubai.
Addressing the surge in interest for cultural offering, the first quarter of the year also saw the opening of Al Shindagha Museum, representing Phase 1 of the Dubai Historical District that aims to connect visitors with the rich heritage of the UAE. In addition, there has been an enhanced focus on highlighting the emirate’s history and traditions through art, architecture and design, with destinations like Al Seef that highlight the city’s pride and vision.
Between January to March 2019, further strides were made to expand Dubai’s hospitality offering to match the evolving needs of visitors, with the openings of new hotels including the W Dubai – The Palm and Mandarin Oriental Jumeirah. Average occupancy for the hotel sector stood at 84%, underscoring the industry’s stability despite the rising inventory supply, with establishments delivering a combined 8.63 million occupied room nights during the first three months of the year.
Spread across a total of 717 establishments, Dubai’s hotel room inventory stood at 118,039 at the end of March 2019, up eight per cent compared to the same period last year. Luxury five-star hotels constituted 34 per cent of the emirate’s total inventory, with four-star hotels commanding a 26 per cent share. Properties in the one- to three-star categories represented a share of 19 per cent. With increasing demand for diversified accommodation options, hotel apartment establishments made up a combined 21 per cent of the total inventory, split into deluxe/superior and standard categories.
Dubai Tourism continued to accelerate its sector – specific marketing and enablement policies to help drive increased company set-up into the city. Additionally, it enabled the enactment of strategic policy levers to attract more talent to work in the city and enhance their retention via new knowledge and retirement visa initiatives. From a market delivery perspective through trade networks, the B2B Attractions Marketplace was launched in Q1 2019 to support the city’s stakeholder ecosystem – providing a powerful online platform to connect attractions and experiences across the city with global audiences and relevant fulfillment partners.
His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri concluded: “The continued success of Dubai as a global tourism magnet relies on collaborative delivery between government and private sector, and the enablement of equitable scale-agnostic participation of players across the entire tourism ecosystem. Our mandate as established by our Ruler His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is to become the most preferred destination – beyond other quantitative visitation targets, which means that together with our partners, we strive to improve the value and quality of the Dubai experience to all our guests – to ensure our visitors return, not just more frequently, but also drive advocacy to capture their friends, family and colleagues.
As we set our sights on 2025 and beyond, we equally recognise the imperative need to embrace technological disruptions as these will be our levers to become the future pioneers for Tourism. In this journey, we look forward forming even stronger global partnerships that can benefit our domestic ecosystem, so that our collective growth fuels sustained acceleration in our sector’s contribution to the Dubai GDP.”