What do you want people to envision when they think of Dubai?
The ease of setting up a company and doing business in Dubai, as well as its appeal as a leading tourism destination will continue to be strong pull factors for business and leisure travelers. In addition, Dubai's futuristic approach is also commendable. The recent unveiling of the Hyperloop prototype, which will allow passengers to travel between Dubai and Abu Dhabi in 12 minutes, as well as the testing of the world's first autonomous pods, are examples of the world-class city's commitment to a progressive and sustainable vision.
How do you assess Dubai's progress toward achieving the target of 20 million visitors by 2020?
Dubai seems to be well on track to achieve this goal. Over 15 million people visited Dubai in 2017, and the figure is rising. In just the first quarter of this year, there was a 2% increase in the number of visitors compared to the same period last year. Dubai's hospitality industry is expected to grow well beyond 2020 thanks to Dubai's status as a new hub for theme parks, a greater awareness of its cultural attractions, the spillover effect from the Expo 2020 and the World Economic Forum's recent ranking of the UAE as the second-safest country in the world, among other factors. In addition, the destination is also expected to see an increase in travel demand from huge source markets such as India and China as their middle class continues to expand. The recent changes in visa regulations for visitors from these countries as well as new source markets such as Russia will make a significant impact on arrivals to Dubai. New initiatives such as the all-inclusive Dubai Pass, which makes it convenient for travellers to explore the city's vast array of attractions and experiences, are also positive moves.
What are the key trends that Dubai's tourism and hospitality sector needs to address to stay ahead of the curve?
Dubai has a good track record of staying ahead of the curve. To maintain its success, it will be important for Dubai to focus on the development of infrastructure, addition of affordable accommodation options and broadening of its portfolio of attractions to position it as an attractive family-friendly destination. Dubai also needs to enhance its connectivity via air through expanding the Emirates and Flydubai network as well as via sea by encouraging cruise tourism, which has already shown year-on-year growth. This will lead to the further diversification and growth of source markets.
What is your vision for the further development of tourism in Dubai?
Dubai is not only the leader in the Middle East for leisure tourism, but also business tourism. According to Frost & Sullivan, its MICE industry will grow by 7% yearly by 2020 and generate a total of USD653 million a year. We believe that travel to Dubai is poised to increase, and that our experience and track record puts us in the best position to serve the growing numbers of travellers, whether business or leisure. We look forward to welcoming more guests to Dubai and are excited about expanding in the city.