Dubai surpasses pre-pandemic international visitation levels in the first half of 2023 and welcomes 8.55 million international visitors

Dubai’s resurgent tourism industry is celebrating a successful first half of 2023, after welcoming a record 8.55 million international overnight visitors, compared to 8.36 million tourists in H1 2019. Surpassing pre-pandemic visitation levels and further bolstering the city’s bid to become the world’s most visited destination, the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) represents the industry’s best ever H1 performance. The 20% YoY visitation growth also contributes to the goal of the Dubai Economic Agenda 2033.

Western Europe emerged as a significant contributor to tourism arrivals, making up 20% of the total international visitation, while the GCC and MENA regions delivered a combined 28% of the regional share, demonstrating Dubai’s allure as a trusted and favoured destination for visitors from neighbouring markets. South Asia held a 17% share of the total visitation, and Russia, CIS, and Eastern Europe combined contributed 14%. North Asia and South East Asia contributed 8%, while the Americas, Africa and Australasia contributed 7%, 4% and 2%, respectively.

Dubai’s hotels outperformed pre-pandemic levels across all hospitality metrics in H1 2023 including occupancy, Average Daily Rate (ADR), Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) and length of stay. Among the highest in the world, Dubai hotels’ average occupancy of 78% is 2.2% points higher than the occupancy achieved for the same period in H1 2019. This growth is particularly noteworthy considering the 13% increase in hotel establishments and 26% increase in room capacity over the same period in 2019. Continued domestic and international investment into the sector further increased the hotel inventory, and by the end of H1 2023, Dubai’s visitors and residents could choose from a total of 810 hotel establishments and 148,689 rooms, compared to 714 hotel establishments that were open with 118,345 rooms at the end of H1 2019.  The robust performance of the hotel sector is also evidenced by the fact that the average length of stay of guests increased to 3.9 nights (up from 3.5 nights in H1 2019), highlighting the city’s appeal for longer-stay travellers, while the total of 20.73 million Occupied Room Nights in the first half of the year represents a 12% YoY growth and a 32% increase compared to the pre-pandemic period of H1 2019.  The average daily rate (ADR) of AED534 during the first six months of the year surpassed the ADR of H1 2019 (AED444), a 20% growth, while revenue per available room (RevPAR) of AED415 in H1 2023, surged by 24% compared to the first six months of the pre-pandemic period of 2019 (AED336). 

The continuous investment in marine infrastructure and streamlined industry legislation, along with an array of nautical events, combined with year-round sunshine, luxury marinas, diverse tourism offerings, rich maritime history, and picturesque coastline have further elevated Dubai’s standing as a leading cruise and yachting destination.  Demonstrating Dubai’s position as the region’s leading cruise hub, the emirate concluded a highly successful 2022/2023 cruise season, with a 125% increase in cruise tourist footfall that saw 762,887 visitors disembarking through the acclaimed Mina Rashid Terminal and the world-class Dubai Harbour. The number of ship calls also surged by 29% compared to the previous season. 

Dubai’s focus on its vibrant dining scene has helped placed the city on the global gastronomic stage. The launch of the second edition of the MICHELIN Guide Dubai, featuring a total of 90 restaurants, including 17 Bib Gourmand winners, and the inclusion of three Dubai restaurants in the World’s Best Restaurants List for 2023 have contributed raising Dubai’s international profile as a culinary destination. The city’s 13,000 restaurants and cafes that represent the cultures and cuisines of over 200 nationalities and catering to diverse culinary tastes, have consolidated its global appeal as a gastronomic hub. Gault&Millau, one of the world’s widely respected fine dining food critique brands has also established itself in the city’s gastronomy scene with its annual UAE Guide featuring top gourmet dining restaurants.

Dubai is attracting an increasing number of visitors for events in the business, leisure, and corporate tourism sectors. Major events in the city include the Arabian Travel Market, Dubai Food Festival, Dubai Esports and Games Festival, and the ongoing Dubai Summer Surprises shopping festival, ending on September 3rd.

Dubai’s stature as a global MICE destination continues to soar with the city registering a strong year-on-year growth of 44% in business event bid wins in the first half of 2023. Dubai Business Events (DBE), the city’s official convention bureau and part of the Department of Economy and Tourism, worked with partners and stakeholders to win 143 conferences, congresses, meetings and incentives in the first six months of 2023. These events – which will take place over the coming years – are expected to bring over 94,000 additional visitors to the city, including global experts and leaders in their respective fields. Association events set to be held in Dubai over the coming years, thanks to successful bids in H1 2023, include: IATA AGM 2024, World Library and Information Congress 2024, Critical Communication World 2024, Million Dollar Round Table Global Conference 2024 and International Trademark Association’s Annual Meeting 2026.

With 2023 designated as UAE’s Year of Sustainability, Dubai has ramped up efforts to achieve its goal of becoming a leading sustainable destination, consistently supporting UAE’s Net Zero 2050, a national drive to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. DET has taken the lead in implementing various activities under its Dubai Sustainable Tourism initiative including the newly launched ‘Dubai Sustainable Tourism Stamp’, a new initiative that seeks to recognise hotels with the highest adherence to DET’s 19 ‘Sustainability Requirements’. These 19 standards include energy and water efficiency, waste management, and staff education and engagement initiatives aimed at supporting hotels to achieve all of their sustainability goals. Dubai is also gearing up to hosting COP28, the UN Climate Change Conference at Expo City Dubai later this year.

In collaboration with its stakeholders and partners, DET will continue to pursue additional pathways to economic and tourism success, ensuring the city remains a hub of creativity, innovation, and technological advancement, attracting talented individuals from around the world, and creating significant opportunities and added value for residents and visitors.

The Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) aims to support the government in increasing the emirate’s competitiveness in the global economy and tourism in order to support the positioning of Dubai as the world’s leading commercial center, investment hub and tourist destination. As part of this task, DET directs efforts to further develop Dubai’s diversified, innovative and service-based economy, to attract the world’s best specialists and accelerate productivity growth. In addition, DET supports the vision of Dubai as the world’s best city to live and work in, promoting it and an excellent quality of life.   DET is responsible for planning, overseeing, developing and marketing Dubai’s business and tourism sectors. He is also responsible for licensing and classification of all types of businesses, including hotels, tour operators and travel agents. DET’s portfolio includes: Dubai Tourism and Commercial Marketing Corporation, Dubai Festivals and Retail, Dubai Industry and Export, Dubai Investment Development Agency (Dubai FDI) and Dubai SME, as well as Dubai College of Tourism, Dubai Calendar and Dubai Business Events.