New Heights


The effects of growth across multiple segments of the tourism sector in 2012 can still be felt in terms of the ever-increasing number of new arrivals. For the first time, […]

The effects of growth across multiple segments of the tourism sector in 2012 can still be felt in terms of the ever-increasing number of new arrivals. For the first time, Dubai welcomed over 10 million visitors in 2012, reflecting a 9% increase compared to the previous year.

The number of foreign visitors staying at hotels in Dubai also grew 11.1% to 5.6 million in 1H2013 compared to the same period in 2012. In addition, guests in 1H2013 opted to stay 0.7 days longer than during the same period of 2012, marking a 13.1% increase in terms of guest nights. Total guests recorded rose to 21.7 million from 19.2 million, or in other words, guests stayed for 2.5 million additional nights from January to June 2013. According to the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), “increasing the length of stay has been identified as a key driver of tourism growth across Dubai within the tourism vision for 2020.”

Currently, Dubai offers 81,472 rooms at 603 establishments, demonstrating an increase of nearly 7.2% in year-on-year terms. Of those, 197 are hotel apartments offering high-income guests superior luxury and convenience. Hotel room occupancy averaged 84.6% over the first six months of 2013, a figure 2.8% higher than the 81.8% recorded during the first half of the previous year. Meanwhile, the occupancy rate for hotel apartments reached 85.8%, up 6.5% over the same period.

However, an increase in accommodation supply has not stunted the rapid growth of room rates, with both hotel and hotel apartment prices rising in 2013. Revenues for hoteliers and hotel apartment operators witnessed significant growth from 1H2012 to 1H2013, with total revenues reaching $3.18 billion and registering a growth rate of 18.6%.

With the right infrastructure in place, the Emirate is prepared to tackle the surge in tourists. In addition to the accommodation offering, Dubai’s airlines and airports cater to a global clientele base; a concentrated focus on quality is what it will take to meet increased international demand. Visitors see Dubai as the ideal location for luxurious hotels, world-class shopping, spa facilities, and dining at top-rated restaurants, many of which are operated by Michelin-starred chefs.


According to Helal Saeed Al Marri, Director General of the DTCM and CEO of Dubai World Trade Centre (DTWC), Dubai’s “top 10 source markets range widely from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Oman in the Gulf to India, Iran, US, UK, Russia, Germany, and China.” With the number of guests from India and China in particular rising rapidly, Dubai is looking eastward as it promotes itself as a prime tourism destination. Visitor inflows from both markets grew 15.8% in 1H2013, kept afloat by the growth of the emerging middle class, first-time international travelers, and targeted marketing campaigns led by DTCM and its offices and tourism sector partners abroad.

Comparing 1H2012 to 1H2013, visitor numbers from Australia, South America, and the GCC registered the most positive growth at 20%, 18%, and 16.4%, respectively. However, other Arab nations and the Middle East at large accounted for the most growth during that period, with arrival numbers increasing 23.8% from 386,765 to 478,912 visitors. Europe and Africa also weighed in with sizable growth in arrivals at 10.3% and 7.5%, respectively.


Rising figures across the board characterized the hotels industry in 2012, with the forecast for 2013 set to meet or exceed further growth expectations. Supported by a booming tourism industry, improved infrastructure, and an increasing number of new arrivals in markets both reliable and new, many hotels are expanding and opening up in 2013, giving visitors a wider array of options and access to some of the world’s finest brands. However, the continued growth of Dubai’s airports and the national carrier, Emirates Airline, will be key in providing the hotels industry enough demand to justify the rapidly expanding supply of accommodation and tourism facilities.

New openings so far in 2013 include the Ocean View Hotel and the Ritz-Carlton at the Jumeirah Beach Residences, with the Conrad on Sheikh Zayed Road, Sofitel The Palm, Novotel Al Barsha, Oberoi Business Bay, and Anantara Royal Amwaj on Palm Jumeirah set to open later in the year. In total, new hotels are expected to add 4,700 new rooms to Dubai’s accommodation offering by the end of 2013.


Although many consider Dubai’s trademark to be the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building is not the only attraction drawing leisure and business tourists alike. Top-quality hotels, technologically advanced entertainment, world-class events, and even water parks have made Dubai one of the top-10 destinations around the globe. “We want families to come with their children and experience the fun side of Dubai,” DTCM’s Saeed Al Marri told TBY, such as “swimming with dolphins, skydiving, desert safaris and camping, deep-sea fishing, theme parks, and traditional souqs in the heart of old Dubai.”

With the capacity to accommodate up to 35,000 people at any time, Burj Khalifa is often considered the most captivating sightseeing opportunity in the Emirate. Rising 800 meters into the sky, it is the tallest building in the world. It is also home to world’s highest observation deck, which features a 360° view of Dubai.

Far below the observation deck is the 30-acre Dubai lake, home to the world’s largest “dancing” fountain, which shoots water jets up to 500 feet in the air and stretches for 900 feet to form a variety of shapes. Over 6,600 WET superlights and 25 color projectors were installed to display a visual spectrum of over 1,000 abstract patterns. The fountain also features a beam of light that can be seen from 20 miles away—and is even visible from space.

As the world’s only seven-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab’s sail-like design and supreme quality have long attracted high-end leisure tourists to the Emirate. With room rates ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per night, the hotel reported 81% occupancy in 2012.

In terms of events, Dubai has already hosted a number of international acts since the beginning of 2013. Demonstrating its ability to successfully stage high-volume productions, the Emirate hosted Justin Bieber’s first concert in the Middle East, Cirque du Soleil, and the all-star line-up of Amr Diab, Shamma Hamdan, and Hussain Al Jassmi as part of the du World Music Festival. In addition, events such as the Dubai Shopping Festival, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, the Dubai World Cup, and Summer is Dubai have contributed significantly toward increasing tourism visitor numbers.

However, not all of Dubai’s international events are geared toward the leisure tourist. With the significance of the Emirate as a major financial and economic hub, conference centers and exhibition halls have been quick to build Dubai up as a perfect location for MICE activity. Today, Dubai occupies the position of the region’s leading MICE hub, hosting the Arab Health conference, Gulf Food, GITEX Shopper, the Arabian Travel Market, and Intersec in 1H2013. These world-recognized business events continue to attract tourists in larger numbers every year, boosting the sector at large and supporting the overarching 2020 goal.