News: Visa changes drive strong growth in Dubai tourism sector


Dubai’s tourism sector sustained the momentum of its strong 2017 start, with Dubai Tourism reporting a stellar 11 per cent increase in overnight visitation in the first three months of the year compared to the same period in 2016.

January to March 2017 saw 4.57 million travellers visit the city, reflecting more than double the growth achieved in the first quarter of last year.

Retaining their stronghold on the top three positions were India, KSA and UK, accounting collectively for 30 per cent of total quarter one visitation to Dubai, with India becoming the first ever market to record nearly 580,000 visitors in any one quarter, with 23 per cent growth in arrivals between January and March.

Despite its eight per cent drop over 2016, driven due to a backward shift in annual school holidays, KSA continued to drive volumes with 440,000 visitors, while UK rallied growth across the mega markets with its five per cent increase to mitigate the declines from KSA and Oman, which rounded off the top five with 214,000 overnight guests.

Among Dubai’s top 20 source markets for inbound tourism, China and Russia continued to top the growth trajectory charts with unparalleled 64 per cent and 106 per cent increases over quarter one of 2016, delivering 230,000 and 126,000 tourists respectively.

Attributable in large part to the positive regulatory changes enabling citizens from both countries to obtain free visas-on-arrival in the UAE, this performance spike has resulted in both countries moving up in their rankings as key feeder markets for Dubai, with China at number four and Russia at number 11, edging closer to a return to the top ten.

From a regional perspective, Dubai saw another first as western Europe took on pole position, contributing 22 per cent of the overnight visitor volumes, ahead of the traditional GCC market leadership.

The latter region’s strong 19 per cent contribution reflected a decline from 2016 largely due to displacement in shares across Asian and Balkan regions, both of which saw identical two per cent gains over their year-end contributions.

Helal Saeed Almarri, director general, Dubai Tourism, commented: “Quarter one 2017 has set us off on a very strong trajectory for the year and we are pleased to see our strategic investments and policy reforms yielding such definitive impact.

“As Dubai continues to evolve and expand the breadth and depth of its tourism proposition, we expect to amplify the appeal of our city as the top consideration for not only first-time but also repeat business and leisure travellers.

“Thanks to the support from our visionary leadership, backed by the strength of our stakeholder collaboration, we have made tremendous strides in ongoing efforts to increase the city’s accessibility, minimise barriers to travel, and make it as seamless as possible for prospective tourists to visit and revisit Dubai.

“China and Russia’s strong acceleration in response to our initiatives are a clear reflection of the importance of such measures as facilitators of tourism sector growth.”