Dubai records 12m visitors in 9 months

by Olamilekan Okeowo

Contrary to reports making the rounds in some quarters that Dubai recorded a whopping fifteen million visitors from Nigeria, fresh figures emanating from Dubai’s Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) has revealed that the emirate recorded 12.08 million visitors globally in the first nine months of 2019 which represents a 4.3 per cent increase from corresponding period in 2018.

The strong 4.3 per cent increase in volume growth compared to the same period last year was supported by highly participatory contributions from both traditional and emerging markets, that has continued to capture strong shares of the tourist wallet, further stimulating Dubai’s GDP impact, and the city’s remarkable consistency in transforming itself to respond to global competition.

As part of the strategies of the emirate to woo visitors, top officials visited other leading feeder markets including Russia and Nigeria. One of such strategies is the participation of Dubai Tourism at the Akwaaba African Travel Market, West Africa’s most prestigious travel trade event, for the fourth consecutive year with a strong delegation of 21 Dubai-based partners, which included a team from Expo 2020 Dubai.

Dubai Tourism also led a strong delegation to the UK and participated most recently at the World Trade Market, WTM.

India, Saudi Arabia, The United Kingdom, Oman and China make up the list of top five countries with the highest number of visitors.

India retained its position as Dubai’s leading source market, with over 1.39 million visitors during the first nine months of 2019, reaffirming the effectiveness of various innovative promotional activities launched by Dubai Tourism, including the continued success of its multi-award-winning collaboration with Bollywood icon Shah Rukh Khan, campaigns across digital and broadcast platforms, as well as capitalising on a federal government decision to exempt children under 18 from visa fees during the summer months. This reaped dividends as evidenced in the increase in travel share of Indian families with children by a substantial 13 percentage points from 32 to 45 per cent during the nine months in 2019 over the same period last year.

Solidifying its position as the highest traffic volume generator for the GCC, Saudi Arabia registered a two per cent year-on-year growth for over 1.25 million visitors, largely driven by the KSA National Day holiday on 23 September, which saw Saudi arrivals registering a massive 36+% growth compared to the same holiday period in 2018. With Dubai emphasising its priority focus on Saudi families, tourism campaigns and promotions dominated digital, social and multi-media platforms ensuring that the city’s custom line-up of events, entertainment and lifestyle offerings for KSA were always relevant, accessible, and unmissable.

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Despite the devaluation of the pound against the dollar, and continued Brexit uncertainty, UK remained Dubai’s third-largest source market with 851,000 visitors, largely due to the intense ‘Always On’ series of in-market activities ranging from seasonal campaigns and promotions, to heavy stakeholder engagement including high-level envoy visits to drive one-to-one dialogue and strategic destination partnerships with leading media, publishers, and travel sector stalwarts. Dubai retained high demand from families with children, one of the focus segments of the tourism strategy in the UK, accounting for 25 per cent of the share during the first nine months of 2019, up by five percentage points compared to the same period in 2018.

Oman stayed the course as one of the key drivers within the top-performing markets, delivering 778,000 visitors for a 28 per cent increase year-on-year, making it the fourth highest traffic generator. Similar to the others, families were the priority for Dubai’s marketing efforts and the results were a resounding endorsement not just of the efficacy of the regional seasonal campaigns and event programming, but also of the packed retail and events calendar, offering rewarding summer packages and value offerings designed specifically to deliver memorable lifelong experiences for new and repeat audiences.

Maintaining consistency, China, one of the fastest-growing source markets, further increased tourism volumes, taking the fifth spot with an impressive 14 per cent increase that saw 729,000 Chinese tourists being welcomed in the first nine months of 2019.

The United States, which saw a one per cent increase, and Russia, maintained their sixth and seventh positions with 481,000 and 433,000 visitors respectively in the first nine months of the year. Steadily building on the quest to become the #1 family destination for global travellers, Dubai prioritised this segment effectively in Russia as well to see a four-point increase to 34 per cent in the first nine months of 2019. Within the top 10 source markets, Germany and Pakistan also retained their eighth and ninth positions with 392,000 and 378,000 visitors respectively while the Philippines, one of the fastest-growing feeder markets, staged an impressive comeback to the top 10 with a 29 per cent increase delivering 352,000 visitors.

Dubai adopts a successful 4-pronged approach to bolster its tourism potential: (i) regulatory changes that were introduced earlier such as granting Chinese citizens free visa-on-arrival access to the UAE, (ii) strategies aimed at retaining relevance and attractiveness for this market through platform-based awareness programmes, (iii) tailored trip-planning via leading social and digital ecosystem partners, and (iv) in-city experiences through its ‘China Readiness’ initiative aimed at offering Chinese visitors exceptional experiences across all tourism touchpoints.

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Apart from the visit by a high-level Dubai Tourism delegation to the UK and participation most recently at WTM, top officials also visited other leading feeder markets including Russia and Nigeria, as part of the global outreach efforts to engage with key strategic partners. In Nigeria, Dubai Tourism participated at the Akwaaba African Travel Market, West Africa’s most prestigious travel trade event, for the fourth consecutive year with a strong delegation of 21 Dubai-based partners, which included a team from Expo 2020 Dubai.

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Dubai Tourism, said: “With Dubai cementing its ranking as the fourth most visited city in the world, the positive growth achieved in the first three quarters this year is exemplary of the unfailing support and confidence of our leadership – His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, in our collective ability with our partners and stakeholders, to steadily accelerate towards making Dubai the #1 most visited, preferred and revisited global destination.

“Our market-specific diversified strategy aimed at driving consideration from a broad spectrum of countries and visitor segments continues to help us successfully navigate macro-economic vagaries over nine months, culminating in a record number of visitors between January-September, particularly those choosing Dubai as their summer destination of choice.

These latest figures affirm the strength of the emirate’s tourism industry, and our strong seasonal performance speaks to the effectiveness of our ‘Always On’ campaigns across key feeder markets coupled with ecosystem collaboration to deliver value, variety and diversity to all our audiences. The robust increase in travel by families from key markets, and specifically from Saudi Arabia, exemplifies Dubai’s growing appeal as a year-round ‘must-visit’ family destination, replete with events, attractions and activities for all ages.

“The ongoing consolidation in traditional strongholds and a concerted outreach in tapping the vast potential in emerging markets, yielded further dividends especially at a regional-level across Europe and GCC, in addition to the very encouraging performances from our Asian and African markets.

As we head into 2020, our efforts will remain focused on attracting new, first-time and repeat visitors from emerging, as well as established markets, to ensure that Dubai stays at the forefront of the world’s widely recommended travel destinations,” HE Almarri added.

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Dubai Tourism continued to launch targeted destination-focused campaigns and strategic activations across global source markets through a combination of customised programmes, stakeholder and trade partnerships.

Complementing the runaway success of the diaspora focused #BeMyGuest campaign, Dubai Tourism expects to amplify the volume across the world with the latest-just launched brand campaign – Hollywood mega starrer Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Hudson and Zoe Saldana. The new project is a short film ‘A Story Takes Flight’ directed by award-winning filmmaker Reed Morano, featuring the three women embarking on highly individualistic journeys of exploration through Dubai, only to culminate in a harmonious story of inspiration, discovery, and human connections.

New campaigns in the first three quarters of the year included a highly successful ‘Monsoon’ promotion across digital platforms for Indian audiences that showcased Dubai as the perfect getaway from grey skies to over 30 million frequent travellers in India, driving urgency to book a Dubai holiday. Further, trade roadshows in three key Indian cities – Mumbai, Kolkata and Ahmedabad – helped promote Dubai’s destination offerings to over 750 travel agents.

As Dubai continues to see positive gains in visitors during the summer – particularly from regional markets – several segments specific innovative campaigns were launched during the first nine months across the GCC, such as the first-ever partnership with TikTok – the world’s leading short-form mobile video application – for the #ThisisDubai campaign. The programme that saw GCC users sharing their unique Dubai stories with specially themed music for a chance to win an exciting holiday to the emirate, resulted in over 30 million video views and over 47,000 user-generated videos featuring the song ‘This is Dubai’.

Familiarisation trips for KSA’s top travel agents, tour operators and media were also hosted with more than 90 representatives from trade companies and 70 journalists and influencers invited to explore the latest offerings to help them develop or showcase tailor-made itineraries for GCC audiences.

Efforts to boost arrivals from the UK market have paid off with Dubai’s omnipresent including but not limited to spearheading the marketing ongoing 360 outreach featuring the distribution of creatives across digital, social and video channels, which aims to position Dubai as the “Always In Season” destination for UK travellers.

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