Dubai - Dubai figured ahead of many popular destinations in Europe and America.
Despite dropping one place, Dubai remains among the world's top 10 most visited cities in 2018 at number 7th, attracting tourists from all corners of the world.
According to global market research provider Euromonitor International, the emirate, which is the only city from Mena to be among the top 10 cities, saw higher number of tourists than New York, Kuala Lumpur, Istanbul, Phuket, Tokyo and Las Vegas among others.
Dubai Tourism Vision 2020 aims to welcome 20 million visitors to the emirate by 2020, which will push the emirate to higher ranking in the next couple of years.
"Dubai is set to meet its 20 million target by 2020 that will put it at the 6th place of global city arrivals rankings, overtaking Paris," said Nikola Kosutic, senior research manager, Euromonitor International.
According to Euromonitor International's 100 most visited cities in 2018 report, Paris moved above Dubai in the ranking. The first 5 positions were held by Hong Kong, Bangkok, London, Singapore and Macau.
In the first-half of this year, Dubai received 8.1 million tourists with India, Saudi Arabia and the UK remaining the top markets. Last year, Dubai's tourism sector was worth Dh109 billion, according to Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
While Dubai and Abu Dhabi are by far the largest destinations in the UAE, dispersal to other emirates is increasingly promoted, it said.
Regionally, Dubai is followed by the holy city of Makkah, Johannesburg, Riyadh and Cairo. The UAE capital has been ranked 10th most visited city in the region.
"Dubai's ambitious target of 20 million tourists by 2020 looks more and more realistic as we get nearer to the deadline. The recently unveiled report by Euromonitor put Dubai as the 7th most visited city in the world beating popular destinations such as New York, Barcelona etc. In the Middle East, it retained its crown of being the most popular destination with over 16.6 million tourists arriving in 2018," said Manu Midha, regional lead, UAE, OYO Hotels and Homes.
Dubai is an innovative city with its policies and legislation at par with its objectives. Relaxation in visa policies will provide the last push in ensuring the emirate is en route to meeting its targets.
"Even after all its achievements, Dubai isn't resting on its laurels, it has set itself an even bigger target of 25 million by 2025 as set by the Executive Council. To meet the rising tourist numbers, OYO plans to increase its inventory over 10-fold to reach 12,000 rooms across the UAE by 2020. At present we manage 1,300 rooms in 16 properties in Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah," Midha added.
He noted that tourists are attracted to Dubai for being a preferred destination for vacation, high-standard entertainment avenues, luxury hotels, theme parks, shopping malls and adventure sports.
Kevork Deldelian, COO of Millennium Hotels & Resorts Middle East and Africa, sees tourist arrivals continuing to increase in the coming years and Dubai will achieve its target of welcoming 20 million visitors by 2020.
"The (tourist) numbers are expected to grow especially during the last quarter of the year due to school holidays, the festive season, the Dubai Shopping Festival and because it is also the best time to travel to Dubai and the UAE," said Deldelian.
The Dubai government has sustained and maintained growth in tourist arrivals year-on-year due to a number of measures to boost visitor numbers including a new transit visa policy allowing all passengers travelling through the country's airports an exemption from entry fees for a 48-hour visit. This opens up a new wave of travellers who previously would not have considered stepping out of the airport when in transit. Having the opportunity to explore the city and discover its attractions will hopefully encourage them to return and choose Dubai as their destination for their next holidays.
Being a shopping destination, the implementation of a new value added tax (VAT) refund system for tourists and reduction in hotel fees will be passed onto clients making Dubai's price point more attractive than it already is.
Laurent A. Voivenel, SVP operations and development for the Middle East, Africa and India for Swiss-Belhotel International, said tourism and hospitality sector is critical to Dubai's economic future. It is predicted to sustain its share of the emirate's GDP at 5.4 per cent over the next 10 years.
He noted that the emirate is on track to achieve its goal by developing world-class leisure attractions and business facilities making it one of the most preferred destinations for travellers from around the world. Top source markets continue to be stable while new ones are growing steadily.