Dubai has balanced dynamics for the growth of its tourism sector over the next decade, thanks to its readiness, tourism infrastructure and additional avenues for visitor growth without straining its urban landscape.
The emirate has been ranked at par with Beijing, Hong Kong, Munich, Osaka, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo and Washington DC for balanced dynamics of tourism growth by JLL and the World Travel and Tourism Council’s (WTTC) latest report, Destination 2030.
Balanced dynamics cities are often business centres with a lower share of leisure compared to business travel, but they also have an established tourism infrastructure and potential for travel and tourism growth.
Citing an example, the study highlighted that Dubai’s tourism department has developed a sustainability strategy to ensure the continual development of sustainable tourism, along with a Dubai Green Tourism Awards scheme.
The study rated the emirate highly for supportiveness of policies in terms of fostering a sustainable tourism growth, scale of travel and tourism market and concentration and density of tourists and visitor activity. Ross Veitch, CEO of Wego, said the travel and tourism industry in Dubai continues to expand with more focus on leisure and entertainment.
“As the number of millennials and Generation Z travelling for business increases, we see ‘bleisure’ as a growing trend where more people are looking at combining their business trips with leisure. Dubai’s vibrant leisure market is attracting more business travellers who are following this trend. Researches show that more than 60 per cent of business trips are extended for leisure. A key measure that cities need to take is to balance between leisure and business travelers to address the demand,” he said.
Veitch pointed out that some of the other key tips for cities to attract more leisure travellers are building on the success of the lifestyle offerings for the country developing a repertoire of unique experiences, focusing on both leisure and business markets tapping into the bleisure trend and delivering personalised packages for travellers.
Laurent Voivenel, senior vice-president for operations and development for the Middle East, Africa and India at Swiss-Belhotel International, said in addition to being a leading leisure and shopping destination in the Middle East, Dubai is also a financial hub, a knowledge hub, a technology hub, a wellness hub and a centre for MICE.
“Dubai is shaping up extremely well with the development of state-of-the-art retail and hospitality projects, fabulous global airline connectivity and world-class infrastructure,” he said.
Dubai Tourism’s figures for the first five months showed that total international visitors reached 7.16 million, same as last year, despite stronger dirham and slowing regional economic growth. Tourists from traditional markets of India, Saudi Arabia, the UK and Russia fell but other markets compensated with higher number such as Germany, Oman, the Philippines, France and Nigeria.
Christopher Lund, head of hotels at Colliers International Mena, said the number of visitors in Dubai has been increasing during January until April but fell in May due to the holy month of Ramadan.
He confirmed that the strengthening of the dollar versus foreign currencies such as euro and pound has influenced the buying power in the UAE for certain EU countries and the UK. “Currency factors could be a potential reason for decline in visitations from various source markets,” he said.
He blamed Brexit uncertainty for the decline in tourists from the UK and general elections in India. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, is fast developing its domestic tourism industry.
“On a positive note, other source markets such as China have seen an increase in visitor numbers into Dubai in the first five months of 2019 versus last year with an 8 per cent increase.”
Given all the global challenges, Ahmed Soliman, managing director at TCA, believes that Dubai has successfully adapted its offerings to attract a substantial share of leisure travelers and this is further supported by the increased numbers of leisure travellers from 2018. He said Dubai’s current market matrix is approximately 80 per cent leisure and it is set to grow further.
“If we are to look at Dubai’s success as a reference point, it’s driven by the strong public and private partnerships in place. To develop on the same, the government supports a holistic approach to advance opportunities across the private sectors allowing for a homogenous tactic to ensure the travellers experience is maintained. This is not limited to arrival experiences, accommodation options and or activities,” he added.
By Waheed Abbas