As Dubai aligns itself to Dubai Economic Agenda 2033 to further consolidate Dubai’s status as one of top three global cities, the tourism department is working hard to lure more tourists from India, which remains its top source market.
From 376,000 Indian travellers who visited Dubai in the period January to March 2022 to 612,000 Indian tourists in the same period in 2023, Dubai crossed the 565,000 visitors mark that it clocked in January to March, 2019.
“I believe we have the roadmap as well as the opportunities, the right tools and the right people, the right vision that is required to make Dubai the most popular tourism destination,” said Bader Ali Habib, Head of Region, South Asia, Dubai Economy & Tourism at a media roundtable held in Dubai during the annual Arabian Travel Market.
“We find that a lot of Indians now want to come to Dubai on a Golden visa and live here. So many people in the business communities have actually shifted base, even as they continue to operate their businesses in India,” he shared on the growing popularity of the destination among Indians.
“India has been the number one source market. We would like that to continue given there are a lot more opportunities, especially from the stopover perspective. There are capacity constraints but we are wired to think around opportunities rather than challenges. We would like to bring in a lot more seat capacities and eventually grow on those numbers moving forward,” he said.
While sustainability remains a focus area, as Dubai is consciously focussed on working towards the vision of meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030, there is a conscious move to create niche travel experiences for the future travellers.“Sustainability is a critical challenge for global tourism. And, I am proud to share that is embedded in the heart of Dubai’s strategy. Aligned with the ambition of our visionary leadership to make Dubai the best city to visit, live, and work, we have made significant strides in sustainability, especially with the Dubai Sustainable Tourism initiative,” he shared on the sides.
The upcoming COP28 will serve as the ideal global platform to take the DST initiative to the next level, he said, adding: “Our aim is to reduce carbon footprint and create a more responsible, inclusive industry”.
India, he said, is “too big a market to say that you’ve championed it”. “It is a big country with 1.4 billion people now. So obviously for us, the Tier 1 cities such as Mumbai Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kolkata, are important as we have built in deep awareness there. But, what we would now like to work on is the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities,” he said.
“Even today, you see a lot of numbers from Delhi that are not necessarily from Delhi, but perhaps from Punjab and Hyderabad. Those numbers can never be associated with those cities because their point of exit is Delhi,” he pointed out.
The strategy, moving forward, would be to make the Indians living in these cities realise that Dubai is an affordable all pocket destination. “If you think about it, the amount one would spend on a trip to Shimla or Ooty is the same price you would pay to visit Dubai,” he said by way of drawing comparisons.
In terms of offerings, Dubai is working to build a strong foothold in the MICE and conventions space. “The difference is clearly visible when you see the kind of properties we have today versus even four years ago. Dubai today is known to host large events. The numbers of events being held here have doubled and we are especially geared to handle niche segments,” he said.
Other than that Dubai is especially focussed on promoting niche tourism such as golf, cruise and weddings.
“We have 11 golf courses in Dubai, which is big for a city like ours,” Habib shared. “And we see a great potential from India. Indians actually travel for golf. Currently, we are trying to work out the price points to make it competitive for them to choose Dubai over the others. We are working with the airlines to see how we can ensure that people do not have to pay for extra baggage,” he said.
Weddings is another segment, where Dubai is keen to build on where the Indians are concerned. As destination weddings become a trend, Dubai is focussed on tapping different income groups with customised offerings. “I feel Dubai has something for everyone. We are saying anyone can plan a wedding here given their budgets. We have the facilities and we would like to work on the perception,” he said.