Dubai welcomed 4.67 million international overnight visitors in the first quarter of 2023, compared to 3.97 million tourists during the same period in 2022 which marks a 17 % YoY growth and the city’s best Q1 performance since the pandemic.
His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, said: “The remarkable growth in international visitation achieved by Dubai in the first quarter of 2023 demonstrates the city’s emergence as one of the key destinations leading the way in the rebound of the global tourism sector. This achievement has been made possible by the far-reaching vision of the leadership to transform Dubai into one of the world’s fastest-growing metropolises and the globe’s pre-eminent hub for travel, talent, entrepreneurship and investment. The Dubai Economic Agenda recently launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, charts an ambitious new path for Dubai to enhance its contributions to shaping the future of the global economy. The tourism sector is not only the strongest pillars of our economy but also a key enabler of Dubai’s distinctive role in the world as a bridge between markets, cultures and regions. In the years ahead, Dubai will continue to introduce new pathbreaking initiatives to offer a distinctive proposition for travellers and achieve its goal of becoming the world’s best place to live, visit, work and invest in.”
The latest industry results – announced at the 30th edition of Arabian Travel Market, positions Dubai as the fastest recovering destination globally, achieving 98 % of pre-pandemic levels in Q1 2023, and exceeding the projection made by the United Nations World Trade Organisation that international tourist arrivals could reach between 80-95 % of pre-pandemic levels this year, especially in Europe and the Middle East. The number of visitors in Q1 2023 was just two percentage points short of pre-pandemic volume of 4.75 million tourists that arrived in Dubai in the first three months of 2019.
Dubai’s traditional source markets delivered solid tourism volumes during the first quarter of the year with key regions continuing to make an impact on international visitation, further underscoring the success of the city’s diversified multi-geographic strategy.
The majority of the regions have demonstrated significant increase in Q1 2023 compared to the same period in 2022 while four regions have fully recovered and surpassed Q1 2019 levels – CIS and Eastern Europe (48 % vs. Q1 2019), MENA (32 % vs. Q1-2019), Americas (9 % vs. Q1-2019 and Australasia 2 % vs 2019). Both South Asia and Western Europe are close to achieving pre-pandemic levels in terms of tourism volumes.
Dubai’s hotel sector spearheads growth
Dubai hotels saw a surge in performance during the first quarter of 2023. Average occupancy for the sector during the January-March period stood at an impressive 83 %, making it one of the highest in the world, and almost on par with the 84 % occupancy recorded in Q1 2019. This achievement is particularly notable given a 26 % increase in room capacity since then. By the end of March 2023, the city’s hotel sector had a total of 148,877 rooms in 814 hotel establishments compared to 118,039 rooms in 717 hotel establishments in 2019. Continued domestic and international investment into the sector helped further boost hotel inventory, with the first quarter of 2023 seeing a 6 % increase in the total number of hotels and rooms compared to the same period in 2022.
The hotel sector outperformed pre-pandemic levels across all other hospitality metrics. During the first three months of the year, Dubai hotels collectively provided 10.98 million Occupied Room Nights, a YoY growth of 7 % and a 27 % increase compared to the pre-pandemic period of Q1 2019, which registered 8.63 million Occupied Room Nights. The ADR of AED607 during the first three months of the year surpassed the ADR of 2019 (AED498), a 22 % growth while RevPAR of AED504 in Q1 2023, surged by 21 % compared to the first three months of the pre-pandemic period of 2019 (AED 417). The robust performance of the hotel sector is also evident by the fact that average length of stay by guests increased to four nights compared to 3.5 nights, a 14 % increase over the same period in 2019, highlighting the city’s appeal for longer-stay travellers.
Spearheading sustainability initiatives
As Dubai shifts towards a more advanced, inclusive, long-term approach to sustainable growth, sustainability is becoming increasingly important as an opportunity and driving force for growth, as more and more travellers seek out sustainable destinations. Sustainability is a core component of Dubai’s development strategy, and hosting global events like COP28 will provide an exceptional opportunity to highlight the Dubai Sustainable Tourism (DST) initiative designed to enhance the sustainability of the tourism sector and contribute to broader clean energy and sustainable development objectives. A key DST initiative is the Dubai Can campaign has successfully reduced the number of single-use plastic water bottles by over 7 million in just one year since its launch in February 2022.
With the support of its stakeholders and partners, Dubai is committed to continuously offering novel and distinctive experiences for discerning global travellers. These developments will largely be driven by the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan, which includes over 100 % expansion of tourism attractions, providing new areas for investment and increasing diversity of attractions and experiences for both residents and visitors. Dubai will also continue to showcase its offerings in various segments, including ecotourism, food tourism, wellness tourism, cruise tourism, sports tourism and destination weddings. DET will further enhance its Gastronomy Always on Campaign as Dubai drives growth in the hospitality and F&B sector, focusing on the four pillars of diversity, value for money, authenticity and experience.
Leveraging its position as an international events destination to draw more visitors to its MICE, business and leisure events, Q1 2023 saw Dubai hosting an extensive line-up of events including the Dubai Shopping Festival, the flagship festival of the city’s year-round Retail Calendar, Art Dubai, Emirates Airline Festival of Literature, Dubai Duty Free Tennis, the Dubai World Cup, Dubai International Boat Show, World Government Summit, as well as Gulfood, the world’s largest annual food & beverage exhibition, which hosted a record 5,000 plus exhibitors from over 125 countries. In addition to COP28, other major events that are set to create greater visibility for Dubai around the world this year are the family summer extravaganza, Dubai Summer Surprises, Dubai Esports and Games Festival and Dubai Fitness Challenge.
The city investment in infrastructure and support systems for entrepreneurs has transformed it into a much sought-after destination for start-ups, global talent and entrepreneurs. Dubai will also continue to provide alternative growth pathways facilitated by reforms and regulatory enablers, including visa initiatives like the Golden Visa, 5-year Multi Entry Visa, Virtual Working, and Retire in the Dubai programs that have eased barriers to entry, promoted long-term affiliation with the city and further enhanced its position as a global liveability hub.