Dubai will nearly double its hotel rooms to 160,000 by 2020, when it expects to achieve a target of 20 million visitors per year as it gears up to host the ambitious Expo 2020 in the emirate.
While Expo 2020 and Dubai’s Tourism Vision for 2020 are separate and independent of one another, there is nonetheless an opportunity to leverage the hosting of Expo 2020 and the focus it will inevitably place on Dubai as a means to attract more visitors to the city, says Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), the newly established body responsible for the branding, promotion and marketing of the emirate of Dubai.
'As the first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asian region, all eyes are on Dubai, which provides us with the perfect opportunity to cement the city’s reputation as a leading world-class destination,' he says in an interview with TTN.
Ahead of the Expo, there is also a need to increase Dubai’s inventory of hotel rooms: 70 per cent of the anticipated 25 million Expo visits are expected to come from overseas, making the event the most globally inclusive in Expo history.
'We estimate that by 2020 we will need a total of between 140,000 and 160,000 hotel and hotel apartment keys; however, we also aim to continue diversifying our hotel sector so we can cater and appeal to all types of visitors,' says Kazim. (Dubai currently has a stock of 612 hotels with 85,000 rooms, according to data by DCTCM. By the end of 2016, the emirate is expected to see an additional 140 hotels and 30,000 rooms.)
The number of three- and four-star hotel and hotel apartment establishments – both completed and announced for the future – has increased over the past few years, and the recently announced holiday homes regulations further supplement Dubai’s growing accommodation industry.
A large part of Dubai’s tourism strategy involves broadening and enhancing the emirate’s destination offering across accommodation, events, attractions, infrastructure, services and holiday packages, to ensure it caters for and appeals to all traveller segments.
Recent examples include the development of new annual festivals, such as XYoga Dubai, Dubai Comedy Festival and Dubai Food Festival. Upcoming family-oriented projects such as Dubai Parks & Resorts and IMG Worlds of Adventure, culture and heritage attractions like the Dubai Historical District and Dubai Opera House will further add to Dubai’s appeal to a range of visitors.
'In terms of hotels, for example, our efforts have focused on encouraging growth in the midmarket sector by offering developers attractive incentives. This initiative has resulted in more than 150 development applications since its introduction in late 2013, with a host of new three- and four-star hotels opening or due to open across the city, offering tourists greater choice,' he says.
Holiday homes is also a key accommodation initiative which Dubai Tourism is tasked with regulating, with the aim of broadening the range of options available to visitors and ensuring quality standards are met and maintained in line with those of the emirate’s hotel establishments.
At the same time, through initiatives such as the Dubai College of Tourism, we are working to achieve the highest standard of service across all segments and star ratings, ensuring Dubai maintains its hard-earned reputation for quality. For visitors, this means a consistently high-class experience no matter where they choose to stay.
In terms of business tourism, Dubai commands a position of strength, with more than 50 per cent of the Middle East business travel market already in the city. Yet there is potential for growth, and our goal is for Dubai to become a global leader in not only business travel, but also events and entertainment as whole.
'We have the best infrastructure in the region – underlined in a study commissioned by Simon-Kucher and Partners Co, which placed Dubai’s public transport services higher than 14 other established metropolises around the world – to support growth of the business events sector,' Kazim says. Also driven by an increase in passengers arriving in the emirate, Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) has secured its position as the Middle East’s premier platform for business networking and international trade.
'To achieve 20 million visitors by the end of the decade, we must deliver a threshold of 7-8 per cent annual growth consistently, and while our growth over the last five years has averaged 8 per cent, indicating that we are very much on track, the need for strong sector-wide collaboration continues to be a chief focus.'
Dubai’s 2016 strategy for growth remains in sync with its 2020 strategic plan, 'yet tourism is dynamic, so it’s crucial that we remain agile and able to respond to market fluctuations'.
'To that end, we have our finger on the pulse of all our key markets, and we take into account any forward-looking trends as we continually review quarterly targets and strategies and make investment decisions, which collectively inform our marketing approach,' he says.
'We expect to be highly targeted in 2016, driving greater consideration and elevating urgency to visit Dubai as a destination of choice for both business and leisure travellers.' In addition, Dubai Tourism will continue to leverage increasing airlift, streamlined visa policies and a broad destination appeal that offers something for all travel segments every time they visit Dubai.
By K S Sreekumar
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.