H.H. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Second Deputy Ruler of Dubai, attended the Department of Economy and Tourism’s (DET) first ‘City Briefing’ of 2023.
Organised for key stakeholders and partners, the industry gathering provided participants with the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the Dubai Economic Agenda, D33, that was launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to further consolidate Dubai’s status as one of the top three global cities. The event, held at the Dubai World Trade Centre, highlighted the crucial role assigned to the city’s tourism sector in ensuring the success of the 10-year Agenda.
In addition to the focus on the D33 Agenda, the latest data and industry outlook for 2023 and beyond were also shared by DET at the ‘City Briefing’ presided over by Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of DET. The briefing was attended by over 1,200 top executives from across the tourism ecosystem, including aviation, travel, hospitality and retail sectors. The gathering has enabled stakeholders and partners to be aligned with domestic and global marketing initiatives and activities rolled out by DET while exploring ways to continue accelerating the momentum to reinforce further the city’s position as an international hub for business, investment, talent and tourism.
Helal Saeed Almarri said: “The Dubai Economic Agenda, D33 is a bold and ambitious plan developed under the visionary leadership of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to create a legacy that will be celebrated by future generations, as we foster a climate of innovation, sustainability and inclusivity to pave the way for a future where Dubai stands proudly among the world’s top three premier destinations. With great optimism for 2023 and beyond, we will press on with determination and a renewed focus on delivering exceptional experiences for our visitors from around the world.”
“We also extend our heartfelt gratitude to each and every partner who has stood by our side, supporting the vision of Dubai and contributing to our collective achievements. Indeed, the success of the D33 Agenda will be intricately linked to the wholehearted support of our valued stakeholders and partners.
Their unwavering commitment and shared belief in our city’s potential have propelled us forward, enabling us to overcome unprecedented challenges and transforming them into opportunities for growth in spite of a tough and highly competitive global environment. Their remarkable dedication and passion have been the driving force behind our city’s continued trajectory towards becoming the most visited international destination and the best city to live, work and invest in,” Almarri added.
18% YoY increase in international visitation and 80% hotel occupancy
For the fourth successive month this year, Dubai’s tourism sector delivered a stellar performance, welcoming 6.02 million international visitors from January-April, an 18% YoY increase, compared to 5.10 million visitors during the same four-month period in 2022.
Dubai’s hotel sector has also demonstrated resilience and strength, with an average occupancy of 80% during the January-April period this year, among the highest in the world, exceeding the 76% level achieved by city hotels during the corresponding period in 2022 and nearly matching the pre-pandemic 83% occupancy in 2019. According to a STR Global Hotel Monitoring Update, Dubai ranked first in occupancy, with a rate of 79.9%, only 2.9 percentage points below the pre-pandemic levels of 82.7%, placing it ahead of other global destinations like London, New York, Los Angeles and Paris. The report also revealed that Dubai ranked first in Gross Operating Profit per Available Room (GOPAR), with a rate of USD145 (AED530), just 9% below pre-pandemic levels, followed by Paris (USD 113) and Singapore (USD 102) respectively.
Hotel supply reached 148,949 rooms in 814 hotel establishments at the end of April 2023, a 26% growth over the pre-pandemic figures of 118,449 rooms in 722 hotel establishments at the end of April 2019. Moreover, the average length of stay by guests has increased by 13% to four nights compared to 3.5 nights in 2019, indicating Dubai’s appeal as a destination for longer-stay travellers. According to data from industry expert Amadeus, search and booking volumes for Dubai remained steady from September 2021 to April 2023, with searches and bookings to Dubai during January to April 2023 nearing pre-pandemic levels and especially close to the high numbers seen during the Expo and pre-World Cup 2022 period.
Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), presented an overview of the industry and shared valuable insights into visitor trends and marketing strategies. He stressed the importance of collaboration with stakeholders and partners to ensure Dubai remains the preferred destination for global travellers and highlighted the various global campaigns that have successfully showcased the diversity of Dubai’s offering, further reinforcing its position as a must-visit destination. DET’s continuous efforts to promote Dubai across its international markets was directly responsible for driving 57% of the total visitation of 14.4 million international visitors in 2022, generating millions of prospective travellers for the future, especially an anticipated substantial increase in travellers from 2023 to 2025. These marketing activities have further influenced 11 million individuals to plan their Dubai trips and also inspired six million people to add Dubai to their ‘bucket list’ of destinations to visit between this year and 2025.
Dubai’s outstanding tourism performance has garnered international recognition and accolades, including being ranked as the No.1 global destination in the TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards for the second successive year. And secured third place among Top 10 prominent global cities, ahead of New York, London, Tokyo, Sydney, Johannesburg, Paris and San Francisco, based on rankings published recently by UK-based The Economist. The city’s thriving gastronomy sector has also been recognised in the 2023 edition of both MENA’s 50 Best restaurants and the MICHELIN Guide Dubai, marking the continued success of Dubai’s diverse and vibrant food scene. The event also turned the spotlight on Dubai’s position as a global hub for cruise, yachting, gastronomy and destination weddings.
Kazim highlighted the exciting ‘Kids Go Free’ campaign, which aims to encourage families and global travellers to choose Dubai as their summer vacation destination. Hotels, entertainment centres and attractions are participating in this citywide initiative, offering families and children the opportunity to enjoy memorable experiences at attractive discounts and also free of cost for kids all summer.
Kazim also briefed participants on DET’s unique 360 marketing approach that deploys the full range of traditional, social and digital media platforms, as well as leveraging the power of celebrities, influencers, opinion leaders and gamification to drive awareness of Dubai’s diverse destination proposition among international audiences. He provided a glimpse of the extensive in-market activities carried out by DET’s overseas offices and over 3,000 global partners including travel trade and airline partnerships for leisure tourism, international roadshows and familiarisation trips for the travel trade and global media. On the domestic front, Dubai enjoyed huge success at the 30th edition of the Arabian Travel Market last month, which saw DET organising the biggest ATM Hosted Buyers Programme, attracting a record participation of 450 buyers from 31 different markets and countries, representing all regions.
Ahmed Al Khaja, CEO of the Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), discussed leveraging festivals and events to increase visitation and reinforcing Dubai’s position as an international hub for leisure and business events and the MICE industry. He presented the diverse festivals and events sector in Dubai that are a part of the Retail Calendar including the iconic Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Food Festival, as well as the upcoming Dubai Summer Surprises, Eid in Dubai-Eid Al Adha celebrations, and the second edition of the Dubai Esports and Games festival, in addition to retail offers and promotions that residents and visitors can avail themselves of this summer in Dubai.
Stakeholders and partners have pledged their support for the D33 Agenda and the continued success of the industry, and remain committed to working with DET to make the city a top destination for business, investment and tourism.
Alexander Lee, Chief Commercial Officer, Jumeirah Group, said: “Today, Dubai is one of the top five most visited cities in the world, with one of the fastest growing luxury markets. It’s a city with incredible appeal to everyone from around the world. As a luxury hotel operator and owner of high-end residences across the city, Jumeirah Group continues to see rising demand for its products and services, both from traditional feeder markets but increasingly from new international markets, as Dubai advances its position as a leading global destination.
“The luxury hospitality sector is becoming increasingly competitive with a strong pipeline of hotels and resorts due to enter the market to support Dubai’s ambitious tourism targets,” he added. “The city is truly paving the way towards being the world’s best place to live and with plans to double the size of the economy over the next decade as part of the Dubai Economic Agenda, D33. This is an interesting time for Dubai and it represents an attractive proposition for many brands like ours, to expand our business and realise our true potential,” Alexander Lee continued.
Timothy Kelly, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Atlantis The Palm, Atlantis The Royal Resort & Residences, said: “The opening of our new ultra-luxury resort Atlantis The Royal has been tremendously successful, welcoming international visitors from over 200 countries. We have exceeded our financial expectations with a strong occupancy performance and immense demand for our many celebrity chef branded restaurants. As we attract new customers, our iconic resort plays an important role in upholding the bold and far-reaching vison of the D33 Agenda. In addition, Atlantis, The Palm continues to break hotel visitation and waterpark records resulting in one of the best years in our history. A key focus across both resorts is culinary innovation and offering the best gastronomy experiences. We recently maintained our Michelin stars at Hakkasan and Ossiano, and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was awarded its first star within only four months of opening. As tourism continues to evolve in the region, we fully support the ambitious goal of the D33 Agenda to position Dubai among the top three global destinations for tourism and business.”
Aligi Gardenghi, Vice President, Operations, Arabian Peninsula, Hilton, said, “Dubai welcomed more than six million visitors between January and April 2023, and at Hilton we have seen great momentum in the first half of the year. Looking to the future, this momentum is set to continue, supported by great initiatives such as Dubai Economic Agenda, D33, which is set to make the city a global business and financial centre. As the city grows, sustainability is top of mind for governments and businesses – with the UAE’s hosting of COP28, great initiatives such as Dubai Can and a major focus on ESG by companies such as Hilton. Hilton is well placed and committed to support Dubai’s ongoing growth, with several pipeline properties planned.”
Sandeep Walia, Chief Operating Officer, Middle East, Marriott International, said: “Dubai remains one of the better performing markets for Marriott International. We know there continues to be a strong demand for travel across the globe and Dubai is an attractive destination for all kinds of travellers. This a market that has something for everyone, and we are proud to have a fabulous portfolio of properties in the city that align with the diversity of experiences this destination offers for every type of traveller. Our year-to-date performance in Dubai has been very encouraging as the city welcomed an influx of regional and international travellers. While leisure travel continues to lead our performance in Dubai, we have been pleased with the upward trajectory of the business transient and MICE sectors in the city. We are confident that the momentum for the travel sector in Dubai will continue through the back end of the year.
“The market’s strong performance continues to solidify Dubai’s position as a global hub for business and leisure while also supporting the overall D33 Agenda outlined by the visionary leaders of Dubai. The tourism sector is an integral part of the city’s economy, and Marriott International remains committed to working closely with the Department of Economy and Tourism and organisations across the country to drive continued growth and success in this destination.”
Duncan O’Rourke, Chief Executive Officer Premium, Midscale & Economy Division – Middle East, Africa & Asia Pacific at Accor, said: “Accor currently operates 56 hotels in Dubai, offering over 14,000 rooms across the Premium, Midscale, and Economy division. Guests can choose from renowned brands such as Swissotel, Pullman, Movenpick, Novotel, Mercure, Adagio, and Ibis to experience world-class hospitality during their stay. This year, we are witnessing positive demand from key markets such as India, the UK, and Saudi Arabia. However, the UAE market continues to be a strong driver of our results.”
“We are delighted to report a notable increase in occupancy levels of +10% compared to the same period last year, a testament to Dubai’s remarkable appeal as a destination, offering a diverse range of cultural, leisure and business experiences. We are confident that the D33 Agenda will stimulate an increase in corporate travel demand, thereby driving the need for long-stay options in the mid-range brand segment and state of the art facilities to accommodate Meetings & Events across the city.”
Fathi Khogaly, General Manager of Grand Hyatt Dubai, said: “In recent years, Hyatt Hotels Dubai witnessed significant expansion across its existing and new properties. One notable project is the state-of-the-art Exhibition Center that opened at Grand Hyatt Dubai in May 2022 and has since played an instrumental role for the Hyatt Group in Dubai to surpass previous years’ performance. The venue attracted large conventions and events competing with other destinations across the globe, supporting the city’s vision in line with the D33 Agenda.
“Hyatt Hotels Dubai experienced a remarkable beginning to the year, with all revenue streams demonstrating superior performance compared to the previous year. We will continue to create innovative experiences for visitors from around the world, including the development of one of the world’s largest urban water parks. Hyatt Hotels Dubai are committed to supporting Dubai’s vision to attract more visitors into the city and further solidify its position as a global economic and tourism hub. A distinguished initiative that Hyatt Hotels Dubai have started since the beginning of the year is to make the hotels completely paperless, disrupting traditional hotel processes and aligning with the sustainability goal of the D33 Agenda.”