By Shaneer N. Siddiqui
Dubai, Feb 6 (IANS): Dubai received 14.36 million international overnight visitors in 2022, growing 97 per cent YoY from the 7.28 million tourist arrivals in 2021, according to the latest data published by the city's Department of Economy and Tourism (DET).
This is an exceptional growth in visitation enables city to surpass global and regional tourism recovery levels.
Tourist travel to Dubai in 2022 reached 86 per cent of pre-Covid pandemic levels, exceeding global recovery levels of 63 per cent and Middle East recovery levels of 83 per cent.
Dubai also witnessed one of the world's highest average hotel occupancy rates of 73 per cent in 2022
The growth, which enabled the emirate to surpass global and regional tourism recovery levels, contributes to the goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 launched by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to consolidate Dubai's status as one of the world's top three cities for travel and business.
By closing in on its pre-pandemic visitation of 16.73 million in 2019, Dubai's 2022 tourism performance further validated its ranking as the No.1 global destination in the Tripadvisor Travellers' Choice Awards 2023 for the second successive year, only the second city in history to achieve the feat.
The latest data from the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) shows that global tourist travel in 2022 was 37 per cent lower than 2019.
The Middle East saw the strongest relative increase, with arrivals climbing to 83 per cent of pre-Covid numbers. Dubai exceeded both global and regional barometers of recovery with visitors to the city in 2022 reaching 86 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.
The strong performance in 2022 featured some noteworthy spikes in Dubai's traditional key markets and strong growth across emerging markets. Dubai remained a first-choice safe travel destination for visitors from the city's stronghold markets.
From a regional perspective, Western Europe and GCC regions each accounted for a 21 per cent share of arrivals.
The GCC region in particular saw an exponential increase in their share of arrivals from 13 per cent in 2021 to 21 per cent last year. South Asia contributed 17 per cent of total volumes while the MENA region contributed 12 per cent, further reinforcing Dubai's continued appeal to travellers from proximity markets.
The Americas accounted for 7 per cent of arrivals while the North Asia and South East Asia region and Africa each contributed 5 per cent and Australasia accounted for 2 per cent.
Dubai's hotel sector, which continues to be integral to the Emirate's destination promise and the overall growth of the tourism industry, continued to perform strongly across all hospitality metrics.
Average occupancy for the hotel sector in 2022 stood at 73 per cent, one of the highest in the world, rising from 67 per cent in 2021. The figure is just short of the 75 per cent occupancy in the pre-pandemic period of 2019. The high occupancy is particularly noteworthy as it was achieved despite a 16 per cent increase in room supply in 2022 compared to 2019.
Dubai's hotel inventory at the end of December 2022 comprised of 146,496 rooms at 804 hotel establishments, compared to 126,120 rooms available at the end of December 2019 across 741 establishments. The total number of hotels in 2022 marked a 6 per cent growth over 2021, with 755 hotel establishments offering 137,950 rooms, figures that highlight the continued strong investor confidence in Dubai's tourism sector.
The hotel sector outperformed pre-pandemic levels across all other key measurements -- Occupied Room Nights, Average Daily Rate (ADR) and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR).
Occupied room nights reached a record high of 37.43 million room nights in 2022, registering a 19 per cent increase vs. 2021 (31.47 million) and a 17 per cent increase over the pre-pandemic period of 2019, which yielded 32.11 million occupied room nights.
The ADR of AED536 in 2022 surpassed the ADRs for both 2021 (AED451) and 2019 (AED415), with 19 per cent and 29 per cent increases respectively. The hotel sector's robust performance is also evident in its RevPAR growth -- an increase of 30 per cent compared to 2021 (AED391 v AED301) and an increase of 25 per cent over the pre-pandemic period of 2019 (RevPAR of AED312).
Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said: "Dubai's ability to rapidly accelerate tourism growth, which has marked it out as a clear frontrunner in the international industry, demonstrates the far-reaching vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum to transform the Emirate into an important global player in shaping the future of vital sectors. The remarkable rise in international visitation in 2022 supports the ambitious goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 to double the size of the emirate's economy by 2033. The tourism and travel sector contributes significantly to the leadership's aim of making the emirate a model for excellence in the global economy."
Innovation and strategy lead the growth and recovery: One of the driving factors behind Dubai's success in 2022 can be attributed to captivating global campaigns conducted in collaboration with regional and international celebrities, opinion leaders, influencers and community personalities that highlighted the city's unique appeal and brought to life the myriad experiences it offers.
One such campaign is Dubai Presents, which takes a novel approach to global destination marketing, using a highly stylised movie approach to create engaging content. Shot against the backdrop of some of the city's most iconic landmarks and unique hidden locations, these short films feature Hollywood stars like Jessica Alba and Zac Efron. The ‘Where the World Celebrates' global campaign that coincided with the FIFA World Cup in Qatar featured French football star Karim Benzema.
One of the biggest success stories of the region in 2022, Expo 2020 Dubai, made a massive contribution to the tourism industry's outstanding performance. The six-month long event, which attracted over 24 million visits, once again proved Dubai's ability to host mega global events and reinforced its position as an international events destination.
In addition to Expo 2020, Dubai continued to host global business and leisure events across 2022 including Gulfood, the World Government Summit, Binance Blockchain Week, Gitex Global Dubai, the International Boat Show and the Arabian Travel Market. Every year, as part of its Retail Calendar, the Dubai organises major festivals and events including the iconic internationally renowned Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Food Festival, Dubai Summer Surprises and Dubai Fitness Challenge.
In 2022, DFRE also launched the inaugural Dubai Esports Festival, the largest international esports tournament to be held in the region.
A leading sports tourism destination, Dubai also hosts an extensive line-up of annual global sports tournaments and events, attracting sporting icons, players and fans from around the world. In 2022 the city's international sporting calendar included the Dubai World Cup horse race, the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship, Emirates Airline Dubai Rugby 7s, the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament and the DP World Tour championship, to name a few. Dubai pulled out all stops to enable residents and visiting fans to enjoy the FIFA World Cup 2022 at buzzing hotspots in the city. Cruise and yacht tourism played a crucial role in attracting international tourists and strengthening Dubai's position as a global travel hub in 2022.
Also last year, a number of new attractions and initiatives were launched as part of the ever-evolving destination proposition, which included the unveiling of the Museum of the Future, Dubai's new iconic landmark that offers a gateway to a future world.
With the implementation of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, which aims to expand the Emirate's tourism offering by over 100 per cent, the city is on track to achieve its vision of becoming the city of the future.
Moreover, Dubai will launch new initiatives aligned with the UAE 2031 Tourism Strategy, which seeks to attract 40 million guests by 2031 and increase the tourism sector's contribution to the Emirate's GDP to AED450 billion.
Dubai also continues to unveil strong regulatory initiatives to promote the accelerated growth of the tourism sector including hassle-free entry procedures for business and leisure travellers that streamline access to the Emirate by establishing long-term engagement with the city. These include the 60-day tourist visa available from September 2022, and the Five-Year Multi-Entry Visa for employees of multinational companies, in addition to the Golden Visa, Virtual Working and Retire in Dubai programmes.