Is Dubai on track to reach the target of 20 million visitors by 2020?
Despite a challenging year for the global travel industry, Dubai has seen significant growth. In fact, in 2017 our growth rate was 6.2%, reaching 15.8 million visitors, and we welcomed 4.7 million tourists in 1Q2018 with a 2% increase in traffic. We are well on our way to achieving our target of 20 million visitors by 2020. We are now present in 41 countries and are actively interacting with people who engage with Dubai content, especially since we own and manage over 100 social media channels and drive engagement in over 20 languages. Our target is to not only increase the number of visitors, but also the length of stays. Lately, we have been focusing on making sure people realize the depth of the options and opportunities to explore the city, looking beyond the most familiar landmarks by highlighting new attractions and experiences across diverse areas including history and heritage, and cultural spots related to arts and fashion. Dubai has always been a trendsetter in the region when it comes to fashion and retail, and we have amplified that in our marketing communications. Another key factor that we are taking advantage of is the easing of visa regulations. Dubai currently offers visas on arrival for citizens of 50 different countries including Russia and China, two of our main source markets. Moreover, the UAE has extended visas-on-arrival to Indian nationals with a valid American visa or Green Card, which should encourage even more visitors from India to choose Dubai.
What are the key trends that Dubai's tourism and hospitality sector needs to address to stay ahead of the curve?
The quality of hotels, rooms, and facilities in Dubai are second to none. The same goes for the level of service and staff friendliness. The next level would be to have them even more thoroughly trained about what the city has to offer. Dubai Tourism has taken the lead in empowering staff with such knowledge with the “Dubai Way" initiative launched by our Dubai College of Tourism. This is a training program designed to give tourist-facing staff such as those employed at hotels, airlines, airports, malls, transportation systems, and theme parks the opportunity to expand their knowledge of the Emirate and its tourism industry as well as improving their guest relations and service skills. However, the entire city of Dubai has a role to play. We would like everyone who calls Dubai home to be advocates of the city.
How do you forecast the impact of Expo 2020 on tourism in Dubai?
Expo 2020 is a landmark event for Dubai and especially for its tourism industry as it opens up many opportunities in terms of investment, infrastructure development, and the promotion of the city to thousands of new visitors. The fact that Dubai was awarded Expo 2020 is also a reflection of Dubai's capability to host mega events. Dubai has earned itself an international reputation as a must-visit tourist destination for the diversity of value offerings and experiences that tourists are able to enjoy. The Emirate's strategic geographic location on the crossroads of East and West provides accessibility to two-thirds of the world's population within a flight time of eight hours. On top of this, we have excellent air connectivity from Dubai International Airport and simplified immigration procedures. As the home base of Dubai's international airlines, Emirates and flydubai, Dubai International Airport facilitates a vast network of airlines that together operate flights to over 240 international destinations. Furthermore, as the fourth-most-popular destination in the world on the MasterCard Global Destinations Cities Index, Expo 2020 also helps us highlight Dubai's quality facilities and amenities.