Greater numbers of tourists travelling to Dubai from growth markets such as China and India are helping to compensate for a drop in visitors from the emirate's traditional source countries, official figures show. The UK has long been Dubai's main provider of tourists but because of the downturn in its economy and sterling's weakness there was a sharp drop in the numbers of Britons travelling to the emirate.
Last year, the number of hotel guests in Dubai from the UK fell 16 per cent to 714,877 from 854,601 in 2008, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) says. Before the global economic downturn, Dubai set a target of 15 million tourists a year by 2015, about double the number of people it currently hosts. Members of the tourism industry say this figure is now unrealistic but it has yet to be revised.
"The problem with the UK was the recession combined with the pound," said Frederic Bardin, the senior vice president of the Dubai destination management company Arabian Adventures. "It's a double whammy." But there has been significant growth from markets such as China and India, figures from the DTCM show. Last year, Dubai saw the number of Chinese guests staying in its hotels increase to 107,488 from 96,328 in 2008.
"It's a long-term strategy," said Mr Bardin. "We will always turn to the markets that will give us something. With others we just have to wait and we are not going to be able to do anything to move those markets." He said the company was seeing significant growth in business from China and Brazil in particular. "With Brazil, maybe because we're an emerging market for them there's still growth," Mr Bardin said.
Dubai was given approved destination status by China in September, opening a huge market and allowing leisure travel to the emirate to be organised by tour operators. The DTCM has long identified China as a source market with tremendous potential, and has set up three offices in the country. About 100 million Chinese people are expected to travel overseas by 2020, according to the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).
"We couldn't get big numbers from China before because we didn't have approved destination status," said Mr Bardin. The DTCM and hotels in the emirate last year started working much harder to generate business from other countries, conducting road shows around the Gulf. Arshad Hussain, the director of business development at the Monarch Dubai hotel, said the luxury property had been focusing more on Asia for source markets.
"Because of a weaker pound and euro you're not going to see many tourists coming from Europe," said Mr Hussain. "Dubai this year is going to depend on visitors coming from Asia." Hoteliers say more UAE guests are staying in hotels in Dubai and other emirates because of discounted prices, more attractions and a greater range of properties. Mr Bardin said the links Emirates Airline was establishing with other countries was also helping to generate new business for Dubai.
Emirates started flying to Prague at the beginning of this month, and in May began flights to Amsterdam. "We know there's pent-up demand in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic," said Mr Bardin. email@example.com