Dubai received 14.2 million overnight visitors last year, a 7.5 per cent increase, according to the United Nations World Travel Organisation.
The emirate’s tourism growth came despite a turbulent geo-political climate and currency issues that put off European and Russian travellers.
Dubai Tourism director general Helal Saeed Almarri said the increase positioned the city as the fourth most visited in the world.
”Yet if Dubai is to hit its 20 million visitors per year target in the next five years, we must deliver a threshold 7-8 per cent annual growth consistently, which has put even greater emphasis on strong sector-wide collaboration,” he said.
The Gulf Cooperation Council accounted for the largest share of visitors in 2015, increasing 12.8 per cent to 3.3 million. Saudi Arabia (1.54 million) and Oman (one million) were the top two markets for visitors from the region respectively.
Despite the strong dollar-linked dirham, Western Europeans remained the second largest market. Visitors from the region climbed 6.1 per cent year-on-year to three million.
Within Western Europe, UK visitors increased 11 per cent to 1.2 million and German visitors increased 7 per cent to 460,000 visitors. Visitor numbers from France slightly declined and those from Italy remained flat.
Visitors from South Asia were the next largest regional group, increasing 21.7 per cent to 2.3 million. India was officially Dubai’s largest source market with 1.6 million tourists and 26 per cent YoY growth, followed by Pakistan with 513,000 visitors, up 11 per cent.
Chinese visitor numbers increased 29 per cent to 450,000 and there were 325,000 tourists from the Philippines.
Outside of the GCC, there were 1.6 million visitors from the wider Middle East and North Africa, up 1.3 per cent, including a 6 per cent increase from Iran and 15 per cent growth in Egyptian and Jordanian visitors.
This was followed by the Americas, which brought in one million visitors, up 8.2 per cent, with 3 per cent and 13 per cent growth in US and Canadian visitors respectively.
“Building on our core multi-source visitation strategy, we have been able to prudently balance our risk exposure to specific geographies, shift our investment to frontier growth markets for Dubai, and be much more targeted on penetrating niche segments within our stronghold markets. Additionally, we have been very focused on ensuring a committed presence in markets with high levels of disposable income, such as China, and those with future potential like Nigeria or Indonesia that have a growing tourism base to tap into,” said Almarri