Dubai on track to receive 20m visitors by 2020

Dubai is on track to welcome 20 million visitors per year by 2020, despite economic problems and weakening currencies in some tourism source markets that have discouraged some people from travelling, according to a top tourism official.

Dubai Sheikh Zayed Road 1

Sheikh Zayed Road

Last year, Dubai welcomed 13.2 million international visitors, up 8 per cent over the previous year. Helal Al Marri, Director-General of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), said that he expects similar growth in visitor numbers this year.

“I wouldn’t say there’s no pressure. We all know today that there are difficulties in some of the economies and source markets.  There are swings in currencies.  Every year, we face new challenges,” Al Merri told reporters at the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) show in Dubai on Monday.

But the robustness of Dubai’s tourism industry and diversity of its source markets allows the emirate to overcome these challenges, he added.

While visitors from Russia to Dubai dropped last year due to the weakening rouble that led some people to cut down their spending, Dubai saw an increase in the number of visitors from markets including Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania, thanks to the addition of 13 EU (European Union) states to the existing 15 that can receive a visa on arrival.  Visitors from Bulgaria grew by 104 per cent, while those from Hungary and Romania were up 86 per cent and 64 per cent, respectively, DTCM said in a statement on Sunday.

Al Merri added that he expects “stabilisation” from the Russian market by the third quarter.

Dubai’s hotels have seen occupancy and room rates drop since the beginning of the year, which has pushed down revenue. This is due to a number of factors, including growth in hotel room supply, a weaker euro and rouble, as well as the recovery of cheaper destinations like Egypt and Lebanon.

“We look very carefully at the room rates and we look very carefully at the RevPAR (revenue per available room — an industry benchmark for performance). The RevPAR today is very similar to 2013. It’s also very strong if you look at it from a global level. We don’t have much concern over the RevPAR … our hotels are in a healthy position, with strong revenue growth and overall performance. We expect to maintain this performance,” Al Merri said.

He added that last year the average length of stay for hotel apartments in Dubai increased but stayed stable for hotels.

“If you look at the average length of stay in hotels, it is skewed by a couple of things: for example, a good portion of people visiting friends and relatives also spend a couple of nights in hotels.”

On the impact of the tourism dirham, a fee that was launched last year, on the industry, Al Merri said: “Room nights have been growing very strongly.”

The fee is imposed on guests staying in hotels and hotel apartments in Dubai per room per night. It ranges from Dh7 for budget hotels, to Dh10 for two- and three-star hotels, Dh15 for four-star hotels, and Dh20 for five-star hotels. Al Merri said there are “no plans” to increase the fee.

Published on 4 May 2015 by Gulf News