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Dubai Tourism: Recovery in 2021

Published Date: 09 February 2022


Dubai’s tourism sector in 2021 has recovered strongly from the challenges of the pandemic year with international visitor numbers in Q4 at around 74% of pre-pandemic levels.  This was despite a challenging year which was dominated by an incredibly complex picture of global travel restrictions and lockdowns that fluctuated with multiple waves of Covid-19.

Other metrics reflect a growing resilience. In the hotel sector for example, while December saw a slight drop in occupancy rates, hotels managed to keep prices steady, with RevPAR unchanged vs November, and that after 4 consecutive m/m increases. Expo 2020 continues to be a big draw, and the UAE has managed Covid-19 dynamics extremely well, with 94% of the UAE population vaccinated, and the country topped Bloomberg's Covid Resilience Ranking in January this year. While headwinds from the latest Covid variant continue to cloud for the outlook for the global tourism sector, a focus on the correct set of policies, that reduce risks and keep the doors open for tourists, in addition to leveraging on its high-quality travel infrastructure, will allow Dubai to chart a determined path to toward normalization.

Data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) showed Dubai attracted 7.28mn international visitors for 2021, a 32% y/y growth compared to 2020. In Q4 2021, Dubai attracted 3.4mn visitors almost 74% of the total pre-pandemic tourist arrivals. In terms of key source markets India ranked 1st (910,000 visitors, up 5.3% y/y), followed by Saudi Arabia (491,000, +22.8% y/y), Russia (444,000, +50.3%) and the UK (420,000, +7.1% y/y). Tourism arrivals from regional markets (MENA and GCC) contributed to 26% of the total volumes, reinforcing Dubai’s continued appeal to travellers from the near region. Western Europe accounted for 22% of total visitors in 2021 led by the UK, followed by France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands. South Asia contributed 18% of total international visitors with Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe contributing 15%. In December, Dubai International Airport retained its position as the world's busiest for international passengers, overtaking London's Heathrow, with 3.54min seats, about 1mn more than the next busiest airport, Heathrow, according to aviation consultancy OAG. Dubai Expo 2020 reached 11.6mn visitors up to Jan 31 2021, with 30% of visitors from abroad.

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