With a successful 2022 behind us, the UAE is now looking towards the next decade with a new strategy that seeks to enhance all sectors of the region's tourism industry
- Nasser Al Nowais, Chairman, Rotana
International tourism is booming, and how! According to recent data released by the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), 2022 saw stronger than expected recovery around the world.
Even in the face of diverse challenges, including geopolitical uncertainty and the current economic climate, more than 900 million tourists travelled internationally during the year. And while every global region recorded a notable rise in visitor numbers, the Middle East enjoyed the strongest relative increase as arrivals climbed to 83 per cent of pre-pandemic numbers.
A strong foundation
Dubai, alone, received 14.36 million international overnight visitors in 2022, representing a 97 per cent year-on-year growth from the 7.28 million travellers who flocked to our shores in 2021. Recent data published by the emirate's Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) also revealed that the city witnessed one of the world's highest average hotel occupancy rates of 73 per cent during the year. This can be attributed to the host of initiatives announced during the year that promoted the growth of the region's tourism industry.
The UAE saw the introduction of a 60-day tourist visa for business and leisure travellers as well as a five-year multi-entry visa for employees of multinational companies, which built on the city's 10-year Golden Visa residency scheme, permits for virtual work and retirement programmes that were introduced at the beginning of the new decade.
New global campaigns featuring regional and international figures drew an increasing number of people to the country; while those who visited enjoyed a whole host of new experiences, including Expo 2020 Dubai and the newly-opened Museum of the Future. Even the FIFA World Cup 2022 taking place in neighbouring Qatar saw an overflow of visitors in Dubai.
While these are huge milestones to celebrate, as with anything in Dubai, the emirate is never keen to rest on its laurels – a virtue that sees the city go from strength to strength, breaking its own records along the way. And once again, as we continue to march confidently into the decade, plans for a new tourism strategy are already in place.
On the horizon
In November 2022, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, launched the UAE Tourism Strategy 2031. During the announcement, he lauded the country's tourism efforts and recognised the sector's role in diversifying our economy. Under the new strategy, His Highness unveiled a set of new goals, which included raising the tourism sector’s contribution to the GDP to AED 450 billion by the year 2031, strengthening the position of the UAE as one of the best destinations in the world for tourism, attracting AED 100 billion as additional tourism investments and welcoming 40 million hotel guests.
To further support the development of the country's tourism sector as we work towards this next milestone, a series of 25 initiatives and policies have also been introduced, based on four integral pillars. These include strengthening the unified national tourism identity, developing and diversifying specialised tourism products, building tourism capabilities, encouraging the contribution of national cadres in the tourism sector and increasing investments in all tourism sectors.
It remains clear that these directions will impact all sectors of the industry, including aviation, hospitality and other services, resulting in a well-rounded tourism environment for visitors of all types. But for all of us behind the scenes, this is yet another brilliant reminder of the integral role we play in making this plan a success. It encourages us to step outside of our comfort zones – just like this mega city has done at every turn – and craft truly meaningful experiences that people will want to keep coming back to. It's yet another opportunity to raise the bar and show the world that when we work together, offering the best in travel and hospitality, wonderful things can happen!
But it is not without your support, dear traveller, that we will be able to achieve our vision. When we work to better our community, all our efforts are geared towards making you – our guest – happy and towards ensuring that your travel memories are ones that will last a lifetime.
No matter what role we play, whether it's welcoming you into our hotels, serving up the finest dishes, helping organise your itineraries or even offering inspiration for your next trip, we do so to contribute to a truly memorable travel experience and deliver on our brand promise of Treasured Time.