Dubai maintains tourism growth momentum with 5.18 million international overnight visitors in first quarter of 2024

Dubai welcomed 5.18 million international overnight visitors from January to March 2024, an 11% rise over the 4.67 million tourist arrivals during the same period in 2023, according to data published by Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) at the 31st edition of Arabian Travel Market (ATM).

Following a milestone year in 2023, with Dubai receiving a record 17.15 million international overnight visitors, the city’s tourism industry is building on the momentum in the first quarter of the year, driven by the visionary leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. This growth also aligns with the ambitious goals of the Dubai Economic Agenda, D33, to further consolidate Dubai’s position as a leading global city for business and leisure.

Commending the achievement, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, said: “The number of visitors in the first quarter of 2024 indicates that Dubai is on course for another standout performance this year after the emirate received a record number of visitors last year, with international visitors reaching 17.15 million. This will ensure that the tourism sector continues its growth journey in line with the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and in line with the objectives of the Dubai Economic Agenda (D33), which aims to strengthen its position as a leading global city for business and leisure.”

Dubai’s exceptional performance reinforced global recognition for the destination, having begun 2024 by being named the No.1 global destination for an unprecedented third successive year in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, the first city to achieve this unique accolade.

Major industry events

The rise in international tourists during Q1 is the result of city-wide strategies established across vital pillars in the tourism sector, including sustainability, accessibility, entrepreneurship, and innovation, while various other key factors contributed to visitation growth. The city hosted several major industry events, such as Arab Health, Gulfood and the Dubai International Boat Show, while new hotel openings included The Lana, Dorchester Collection’s first property in the Middle East; SIRO One Za’abeel, Dubai’s first fitness hotel; Marriott Marquis Dubai; and Hilton Dubai Creek Hotel & Residences. Catering to all budgets and preferences, Dubai’s diverse offerings are constantly evolving, supported by world-class infrastructure, exceptional service at all touchpoints, and continuous collaboration between the government and private sectors.

Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), said: “Inspired by the visionary leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and guided by the objectives of the D33 Agenda, Dubai is committed to further elevating standards across the emirate and expanding its tourism offering with innovative and distinctive world-class infrastructure, experiences and attractions.

“We will continue to drive strong global and market-specific campaigns, collaborating with our key domestic and international stakeholders and partners and taking a diversified marketing approach to promote Dubai to audiences around the world, exciting and inspiring potential new and repeat visitors. The commitment of our partners to this shared vision, including through the delivery of the highest levels of service across all consumer touchpoints, is instrumental in making Dubai the best city to visit, live and work in. We look forward to maintaining the industry’s success throughout summer and the rest of the year.”

Key source markets

Dubai’s diversified approach, built on bespoke strategies and activities in more than 80 markets, helped maintain its position as a first-choice travel destination for visitors both from key traditional and emerging markets. From January to March, the Western Europe region was Dubai’s biggest source market with 1.138 million arrivals, a 22% overall share, followed by South Asia with 869,000 visitors (17%) and CIS and Eastern Europe with 817,000 (16%). From a regional perspective, the GCC and MENA were fourth and fifth, accounting for 664,000 (13%) and 605,000 (12%) arrivals respectively. The North-East Asia and South-East Asia region recorded 470,000 arrivals into Dubai (a 9% share), followed by the Americas 344,000 (7%), Africa 202,000 (4%) and Australasia 70,000 (1%).

Hotels and hospitality

From January to March this year, Dubai’s hotels maintained a room occupancy rate of 83%, a notable achievement given the 2% year-on-year increase in overall room supply to more than 152,000. Occupied room nights increased by 2%, with 11.2 million at the end of Q1 2024, compared to 10.98 million in 2023. Average Daily Rate (ADR) rose to AED638 during Q1, marking a notable increase of 5% compared to the same period in 2023, while Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR) increased by 4% compared to last year, from AED504 to AED527. This performance clearly indicates city hoteliers are maintaining competitive prices and revenues amid high levels of occupancy. Total available rooms in Dubai reached 152,162 by the end of March, up from 148,877 rooms in March 2023, while the number of establishments stood at 832 at the end of the first quarter, compared to 814 during the same period last year.

Dubai had a substantial total of 96,484 hotel rooms across five-star and four-star establishments, representing a significant 64% share of the overall hotel rooms in the city, with average room occupancy typically ranging from 81% to 84%. One- to three-star hotels had a 19% share of Dubai’s overall hotel market, with the category comprising 29,100 rooms and a commendable 82% room occupancy rate. The hotel apartments segment boasted a total of 26,578 keys at the end of the first quarter and maintained a strong average room occupancy ranging from 84% to 85%.

Sustainability initiatives

With the UAE’s ‘Year of Sustainability’ extending into 2024, Dubai continues its commitment to sustainability by supporting global and country-wide objectives. Dubai’s tourism and hospitality sectors are spearheading this drive, with programmes and initiatives demonstrating the city’s ecotourism strategy.

Pioneering initiatives include those under the Dubai Can umbrella. The popular ‘Refill for Life’ campaign, promoting the use of reusable bottles and encouraging people to refill via 50 water fountains established throughout the city, has already seen the reduction in the usage of an equivalent of more than 18 million 500ml single-use plastic water bottles in just two years since its launch. A second Dubai Can initiative, Dubai Reef, is the world’s largest marine reef development project and part of the city’s efforts to increase fish stocks and boost marine biodiversity. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed recently inaugurated the landmark project’s pilot reef modules.

Entrepreneurship spur

DET is creating new pathways to growth beyond traditional tourism, through investment, entrepreneurship, and attracting global talent. Offering vocational training and educational programmes, Dubai College of Tourism (DCT), part of DET, is committed to developing a skilled workforce to support the growth of the tourism sector. Dubai also offers entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) a platform for ease of set-up and scale. Dubai SME provides financial support, mentorship, and resources to emerging entrepreneurs while Intelak Hub is the region’s only start-up platform dedicated to the travel, tourism, and aviation sectors.

Global leisure hub

Dubai’s gastronomic offering, catering to the diverse tastes of residents and visitors alike, continues to expand and is a cornerstone of the city’s tourism strategy. The city’s position as a global culinary capital was further established with 18 Dubai-based restaurants included in the 2024 MENA’s 50 Best Restaurants list, with four of them taking the top four places.

The ongoing expansion of the cruise sector is also seeing significant benefits for Dubai. In March this year, regional maritime and tourism authorities formalised the Cruise Arabia alliance – a strategic partnership that will promote the Arabian Gulf as a cruise ship destination globally and collaborate to enhance the cruise experience for passengers, attract more cruise liners, improve infrastructure at ports, and drive economic growth in the cruise tourism sector. Dubai has been a significant player in the Cruise Arabia alliance, working closely with its partners to create interconnected and integrated regional cruise services.

Dubai’s status as a global entertainment hub is being bolstered by new attractions and a year-round calendar of business, leisure, and sporting events, which continue to attract international tourists. The city’s newest major opening is Real Madrid World, an exciting theme park within Dubai Parks and Resorts, and the first to be operating under the branding of the world-famous football club. The opening of Real Madrid World follows the multi-year agreement signed in October last year between DET and Real Madrid, which will create growth opportunities for both institutions and support the D33 Agenda. Meanwhile, organised by Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), some of Dubai’s biggest annual events were held during the first quarter of the year, including Dubai Shopping Festival. Currently taking place across the city until 12 May is the Dubai Food Festival, one of Dubai’s flagship events and a celebration of the city’s vibrant culinary scene.