Dubai ‘on track to hit 20 million visitors by 2020 target’

Dubai ‘on track to hit 20 million visitors by 2020 target’

Earlier this year, Dubai’s Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM) revealed it had set itself an ambitious target; it announced it wanted to attract 20 million visitors by 2020 - a target that could well be achieved if the emirate keeps on the path it is currently travelling.

According to the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, Bangkok is currently the world’s most visited city, knocking London off the top spot by a slight margin. The Thai capital attracted 15.98 million international visitors during 2013, compared to London’s 15.96 million and Dubai’s 9.89 million.   

Although the emirate ranked seventh overall, it showed the strongest growth last year, experiencing a 10.9 per cent boost in the number of arrivals to Dubai. The index predicts that it will surpass Singapore next year, New York in 2016 and Paris in 2017 in terms of growth.

Back in May, the DTCM revealed how it intended to capitalise on this improvement at the Arabian Travel Market, held at Dubai World Trade Centre. During the presentation, Helal Saeed Almarr, director general of the DTCM, explained how the emirate had already experienced a surge in the tourism sector after successfully securing the World Expo 2020.

He said: “While the city is already seen as a must-visit destination, a continuous drive to innovate will lead to a constant reinvention of the visitor experience, creating one that is unrivalled anywhere else in the world.”

Mr Almarr told the audience at the conference that the DTCM’s new marketing campaign would focus on major attractions and includes wide a range of activities across the emirate. He outlined plans for a digital campaign that would combine a revamped website and a new app to improve accessibility.

The DTCM has wasted no time, as now a month has passed and many of the strategies outlined in May are coming to fruition.


Earlier this month, the Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) announced that construction on the Dubai Opera House - a 2,000 seat multi-purpose venue - has begun and the site would be completed by 2016. It is hoped this new attraction will rival the Sydney Opera House, which is visited by 8.2 million international tourists every year. The development will add a touch of variety to Dubai’s portfolio of attractions and could entice some of its rivals’ visitors.

This year’s ‘Ramadan in Dubai’, which will run between June 29th to July 27th, is set to be the biggest and best yet. Organisers of the event have married culture and entertainment to create a festival that celebrates Islam when providing a one-of-a-kind cultural experience. The extravaganza will allow tourists to celebrate the values of the Islamic faith through different activities, including the Dubai International Holy Quran Award and the Ramadan Forum.

Tourist attractions

The DTCM understands that some of the biggest draws for international visitors are the unique landmarks housed in each city, such as Paris’ Eiffel Tower and New York’s Statue of Liberty, which is why the emirate has been busy creating its own extraordinary attractions.

The world’s largest sustainable artificial coral reef is to be built in Dubai by LA-based firm Reef Worlds. Soon, the emirate could see an influx of visitors, all eager to experience the ‘Pearl of Dubai’. The development will allow investors to buy a slice of the $3 billion (£1.8 billion) global dive and snorkel market, while also giving tourists the chance to see some of the exotic aquatic life found in places like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

As well as building tourist attractions, Dubai is actively trying to encourage growth in specific markets. For example, the emirate recently played host to some big players from Germany's travel and tourism industry as part of the DTCM’s plan to boost its share of the world’s largest outbound market for foreign travel.

Dubai is also working hard to increase the number of tourists from Oman, with its new ‘Summer is Dubai' campaign. Saeed Mohammad Mesam Al Falasi, director of the Strategic Alliance Division and Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE), an agency of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing​ (DTCM), told The Times of Oman: 'We know exactly what the holiday makers from Oman want and we expect more tourists from Oman to enjoy the surprises this year, also.”

Improved tourist experience

The government has taken steps to improve the experience of tourists visiting the emirate even before they’ve reached the airport.

Recently, Dubai Customs developed a new app that will allow travellers to the emirate to access most services via their smartphones, tablets and smartwatches. The technology will make any dealings with customs run more smoothly and will increase customer convenience. His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president of the UAE, prime minister and ruler of Dubai believes the new software is a step in the right direction to turn the emirate into the world’s ‘smartest city’.

The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) has recently launched a new app to help visitors get around the emirate. ‘Smart Taxi’ is an innovative way to arrange transport, as the user simply needs to shake their smartphone for the app to automatically source a car. The technology will allow tourists to navigate their way around Dubai - something which will be invaluable to first-time visitors.

Abdullah Al Madani, chief executive officer of RTA’s Corporate Support Services Sector, commented: “As one of the key government organisations, [the] RTA is keen on implementing smart solutions as part of our endeavour to support Dubai’s drive to transform into a smart city. Smart mobility is one of the main pillars of the smart city initiative and the smart taxi app is one of the important solutions in this regard.”


In order to accommodate the increase in tourists Dubai is aiming to achieve, the government has started work on several infrastructure projects that will prepare the emirate.

In June, Dubai International Airport was crowned the world’s busiest global hub, overtaking London Heathrow for the first time. However, the government intends to boost the traffic that passed through the airport by increasing its capacity. Later this year, trials will begin on the new terminal, Concourse D, to prepare for its grand opening in early 2015.

The project will take the airport’s total available volume to 90 million passengers, which means it will be able to accommodate more than the 67.3 million that have passed through its doors in the last year.

Posted by Neil King

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