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Dubai has been named the 6th most visited city on Earth by Euromonitor International. This puts Dubai above Paris and New York in the top ten ranking.
Dubai has positioned itself as a tourist destination for more than a decade. With less income from the energy industry than neighbouring Abu Dhabi, Dubai worked tirelessly to build its name as a luxury destination in the region; capitalising well on the GCC’s lack of one. Whilst the UAE has a federal government which approves a country-wide budget, individual emirates are able to, to a degree, manage their own finances. Dubai has generated revenue by attracting people.
It is important to clarify what constitutes the average Dubai traveler. In the first and most obvious instance, vacationing tourists. But, with the average duration of hotel stays being 3.5 nights, it’s the business traveler that helps Dubai retain its position in the top ten.
Dubai is well known as a destination in the UK but Brits are not the dominant demographic when it comes to UAE travel. According to Visit Dubai, Indians make up the bulk of visitors followed by Saudi Arabians, with people from the UK in third. GCC-based visitors make up 21%, those from Western Europe 20%, and South Asian visitors 18%.
Part of the reason for this travel is Dubai’s position as a regional base for large companies. With free zones offering 100% ownership of foreign companies and favourable tax-related incentives, it is easy for MNC’s to fly executives into Dubai and then on to regional offices. The Emirates Airline network of flights into Dubai is mature with travelers able to take advantage of local budget carriers such as Air Arabia and FlyDubai for onward journeys.
Dubai’s dominance in MICE also contributes with Arab Health in 2017 seeing 103,000 attendees, GITEX averaging 150,000 each year, and a multitude of other events attracting people in their thousands (the Middle East has its own Comic Con, also hosted in Dubai). Add to this lengthy periods of government holidays (‘bank holiday’ equivalents) regionally, and it’s easy to see how the numbers start to increase. A long weekend in the UAE is attractive to many in the GCC region.
Whilst Dubai was the first to move in the regional business travel market, it is no longer the only attractive destination in the region. As a city that has never rested however, Dubai is now focussing on family oriented destinations. The UAE is home to a number of good quality water-parks and Abu Dhabi has the world’s only Ferrari theme park (Ferrari World). But Dubai has recently opened Legoland, Motiongate, and IMG Worlds of Adventure, offering visitors Marvel, Hollywood, and Bollywood themed content. Again, Dubai has made a play for a market that is not catered for regionally; the middle-class family.
Dubai is a people town and it would not exist in its current form if people did not feel secure when visiting or doing business. Its recent happiness initiative, which has seen the appointment of a government Minister for Happiness (yes, you read that correctly, and if you’re a cynical person your nose may have just furled), is doing everything from painting smiley faces on roads to ensuring free public wifi, and could be seen as groundbreaking in years to come. Dubai’s willingness to challenge the status quo is what makes it one of the world’s most visited cities.
The Top Ten: