x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Dubai lures more tourists from Asian nations

Tourists from Asian countries such as India and Iran are patronising Dubai hotels in growing numbers.

Tourists from Asian countries such as India and Iran are patronising Dubai hotels in growing numbers, but Europeans still dominate the registers while the number of Arab visitors from the GCC is declining, according to new figures from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). The shift in tourist demographics reflects Dubai's growing appeal among newly affluent Asian consumers and a growing interest in the Gulf for exploring emerging alternatives such as Oman, analysts say.

The number of Asian visitors to Dubai in the first nine months of last year increased by 11 per cent over the previous year, calculations based on DTCM figures by The National showed. The two predominant contributors were Iran and India, which together made up more than half of the total from the region. Arab tourists from the GCC fell by 15 per cent, the figures showed. The data also showed that the total number of travellers from the Middle East - including from countries such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon - dropped during the first nine months of 2008.

"GCC travellers are now looking at other emerging destinations in the region such as Jordan, Oman and Kuwait rather than revisiting Dubai," said Caroline Bremner, the head of travel and tourism research at Euromonitor International, a global market research firm. "There is a drop in Arab visitors because other countries in the region are becoming so competitive with prices and Dubai is far from being a cheap destination," said Ms Bremner.

The total number of tourists visiting Dubai hotels in the first nine months of 2008 was 5.4 million, according to the DTCM figures. This is 6 per cent higher than the year before, according to a calculation by The National using the average quarterly figure of 2007 as a benchmark. Europeans dominated the numbers, with 1.7 million tourists in the nine months, followed by Arabs and Asians, both around 1.3m for the January-to-September period.

The DTCM is targeting the GCC market in a new marketing campaign announced last month to boost the number of tourists to Dubai in the face of the global economic crisis. The plan includes deep discounts on room rates, ranging from 40 per cent to 60 per cent, in addition to a 25 per cent discount on the price of food and beverages during the Dubai Shopping Festival, which started on Thursday and will continue until Feb 15.

Khalid Ahmed bin Sulayem, the director general of the DTCM, last month said the campaign was part of an effort to sustain tourist numbers in 2009 and other promotions would be announced throughout the year. Ms Bremner said Dubai should target Asia too. "I think that it's a good idea of the DTCM to continue to target the GCC countries, but they should also start to target emerging markets in Asia like India and China because that's where the growth levels will really come from."

Analysts said Dubai could still exceed 2007's total annual tourist figure of 6.9m, despite the reports of falling occupancy levels, particularly in December. "Dubai could have easily attracted 1.4m visitors during the last quarter of 2008," said Elie Armaly, the business development director of Roya International, a Dubai-based hospitality consultancy. DTCM has previously said it did not plan to revise its target for 2015, to attract 15m tourists. Ms Bremner agreed.

"I think that in the coming two to three years, when the market will recover, there will be no need to revise the 2015 target." abakr@thenational.ae