With ambitious plans to take over from London as the world’s most visited city, Dubai is focussed on introducing continual enhancements to the city’s corporate and leisure travel offering. While London currently welcomes around 16 million tourists a year, Dubai’s Tourism Vision for 2020 project has set the goal of attracting 20 million travellers by the end of the decade.
If 2013 figures are anything to go by, it seems that the city is well on its way with a 10.6% growth in visitors. If this growth rate is maintained, a 10.6% year-on-year increase equating to 11 million hotel guests will be achieved, propelling the city towards its 2020 target.
Over the past 12 months the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Dubai have taken a number of important steps to help achieve their visitor goal, while also working hard to raise the emirate’s international profile. To begin with, the UAE won the bid for the 2020 World Expo to be held in Dubai and then in October 2013 Dubai’s second international airport at Dubai World Central opened to its first passenger flights.
The airport, Al-Maktoum International, is set to be the world's largest once completed when it will feature five runways with the ability to handle an annual capacity of 160 million passengers. The new airport will complement the current Dubai International airport, which handled 57 million passengers in 2012 and has become a major stop for air traffic between the West, Asia and Australasia.
The new Al-Maktoum International is some 50km south of Dubai International and in the first quarter of 2014, in excess of 102,000 passengers passed through it. To date Qatar Airways, the Hungarian budget airline Wizz Air, Kuwait’s Al Jazeera Airways and Bahrain’s Gulf Air already operate flights from Al Maktoum.
Other initiatives aimed at attracting corporate and leisure travellers include the lifting of UAE federal pre-entry visa regulations on European Union member states. Plus there are plans to increase current hotel room inventory from 80,000 in 2012, to between 140,000 and 160,000 by 2020.
The local authorities are also concentrating resources on lifting Dubai’s overall business destination positioning from that of being a regional leader, to becoming a truly global hub for business tourism. With this goal in mind, business travellers represent 20 per cent of Dubai’s target traffic. The city also intends to exploit the 24 - 48 hour travel time that is common for business tourists to provide them with a preview of Dubai that will hopefully encourage business travellers to return, for a longer leisure stay.