Dubai tourism sector grows 12% in first two months of 2017

Dubai welcomed just over three million visitors, nearly four times the rate of the previous year. Supported by growth in all key markets, China and Russia in particular drove the volumes and set the stage for a strong first quarter result. This period witnessed 60% growth in overnight tourists from China with January alone peaking at 102%, while attracting a total of 157,000 Chinese visitors across just the first two months.

Reflecting an even more significant percentage increase, Russian visitation jumped 84% over the same period last year with February delivering a 140% volume increase to bring a total of 65,000 travelers in the first two months.

Consequently, both contributing countries moved up in their rankings as key source markets for inbound tourism to Dubai with China entering the top four  for the first time and Russia moving to just outside the top 10, figures showed.

Backed by focused destination marketing campaigns across strategic feeder markets for the season, Dubai Tourism’s promotional efforts in China for Chinese New Year and Russia for the pre-spring break were strongly stimulated by the positive regulatory changes allowing both countries visa-on-arrival status into the emirate.

With Chinese travelers able to enter Dubai without the cost and time of procuring visas in advance since November 2016 and Russian nationals getting similar privileges in February 2017, the importance of ‘ease and convenience’ of access in driving tourism traffic is evident in the immediate results following the policy changes.


Saeed Almarri, director-general, Dubai Tourism, said: “As we continue to invest in raising consideration for Dubai as the destination of choice for global travelers, our focus at Dubai Tourism is equally on increasing Dubai’s accessibility and removing barriers to travel by working closely with partners and stakeholders in the public and private sectors on both a federal and emirate level.”

He added: “We work closely with the government on initiatives to drive increased visitation and the decision by the UAE leadership to offer visas-on-arrival to our Chinese and Russian guests has already proven an astute one, as we have seen an almost instant positive effect from both countries. Dubai Tourism has invested significant efforts in marketing Dubai as an appealing destination for visitors from China and Russia.”

Almarri said: “As 2017 progresses, we expect to capitalize on Dubai’s additional hotel room supply at various price points, as well as the recent openings of attractions such as IMG Worlds of Adventure and Dubai Parks and Resorts to drive continued high performance from the sector.”

`China readiness’

Dubai has progressively improved its ‘China Readiness’ at an overall city level across all aspects of the tourist journey – particularly across infrastructure components and key pillars of the destination proposition.

Some examples of steps taken include increasing the number of Mandarin-speaking customer service representatives for tourism-related activities across the emirate, widening acceptance of Chinese payment systems, allocating culturally trained staff in hotels, malls and attractions dedicated to inbound Chinese groups.

Other measures include, providing additional food and beverage outlets catering to their tastes, and making Mandarin-language maps available at attractions and shopping malls throughout the city.

Russian market

The Russian market has retained its trajectory of recovery that commenced last year, following a prolonged period of economic instability that resulted in a marked drop in Russian outbound travel. Having posted a year-on-year increase of 14% in overnight visitation in 2016, the dramatic spike in 2017 so far is a strong indicator of the positive sentiment for outbound travel from the market.

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