More than 1.2 million Brits flocked to the top-selling Middle East destination in 2015, making it the world’s third biggest source country for Dubai, usurped only by India and Saudi Arabia, which ranked first and second place respectively.
“Hopefully one day the UK market will be number one,” said Hoor Alkhaja, overseas promotional manager, Dubai Tourism, addressing delegates addressing this week’s The Global Travel Group (TGTG) at Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai (23-25 May).
“We have always had a strong relationship with the UK and we hope it will grow.”
Dubai attracted 14.2 million international visitors in 2015, but its goal is to boost this to 20 million by 2020, and the UK will play a key role in driving this growth, said Alkhaja.
Dubai Tourism has a well-thought-out strategy to reach its tourism goals, and it’s based on providing compelling reasons for travellers to visit Dubai on multiple occasions throughout their lifecycle – take the golfer who visits in his 20s on business, returns again with his wife for a romantic break a few years later, and then again in his 30s with his growing family and again with friends for a 40th birthday celebration, and so on.
“We don’t want people to come once,” Alkhaja told TGTG agents. “Our promise is that there is always something to do in Dubai. We don’t want it to be that destination people just visit once – it’s about coming again and again. We want visitors to stay longer and come back for more.”
She explained how Dubai had rapidly evolved its tourism proposition since 1971, rolling out attractions and infrastructure year after year, that have served as repeat business enticers.
Examples cited included the Burj Al Arab in 1999, which “put Dubai on the global map”; the opening of Atlantis, The Palm and Dubai Mall in 2008; and the inauguration of the Burj Khalifa in 2010, to name a few.
Looking ahead there are a raft of mega projects and tourism-focused initiatives too long to list that will provide visitors with multiple reasons to return to Dubai.
They range from theme parks, cultural attractions, museums and major events including the World Expo 2020, to cities within a city featuring more malls and hotels and Dubai’s new aviation hub, Al Maktoum International – Dubai World Central (DWC), which when fully completed in the late 2020s, will have the capacity for more than 220 million passengers annually.
Alkhaja said Dubai Tourism was “working heard to pioneer next-generation experiences”, while broadening the accommodation offering to include more budget and mid-market options.
“To us, Dubai should be a city that is accessible to everyone,” she stressed.