Dubai welcomed more tourists than ever before in 2023, attracting 17.15 million international overnight visitors over the course of the year, according to the latest data published by Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET). Representing a 19.4% YoY growth over the 14.36 million tourist arrivals in 2022, last year’s figure also exceeded the previous record of 16.73 million visitors registered in 2019.
The growth aligns with the goals of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 launched just over a year ago by Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to further consolidate Dubai’s position as one of the top three global cities for business and leisure, and the best city to visit, live and work in.
Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and Chairman of The Executive Council of Dubai, said: “The best ever performance of Dubai’s tourism sector in 2023 is a testament to the foresight of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. His Highness’s commitment to fostering resilience, excellence and innovation across economic sectors and encouraging meaningful public-private partnerships that deliver value has had a transformative impact on tourism development in the emirate. Dubai’s ability to constantly generate diverse and refreshingly novel travel and tourism experiences catering to a wide range of visitors has been a key factor behind this exceptional performance. With several indicators outperforming pre-pandemic levels, this year’s results mark Dubai out as a vibrant focal point of growth in the global tourism landscape.”
Celebrating a record-breaking year in 2023, Dubai further bolstered its ranking as the No.1 global destination for an unprecedented third successive year in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2024, the first city to achieve this unique accolade. The milestones are testament to the emirate’s vibrant and diverse offerings, supported by world-class infrastructure, exceptional service at all touchpoints, and continuous collaboration between the government and private sectors. The city caters to travellers of all budgets and preferences, and a year-round calendar of business, leisure and sporting events continues to attract international visitors.
The tourism sector’s performance closely parallels the emirate’s 3.3% GDP growth in the first nine months of 2023, further highlighting the symbiotic relationship between tourism and economic prosperity. Accommodation and food services activities witnessed a remarkable 11.1% growth, solidifying Dubai’s position as a global tourism leader.
Dubai’s international visitor performance has outshone global tourism trends, with the latest data from the UN World Tourism Organisation revealing that, overall, international tourism reached 88% of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023. The only region to overcome pre-pandemic levels with 22% visitation growth above 2019, the Middle East led global recovery in relative terms.
Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), said: “The significant rebound of Dubai’s tourism sector, outstripping global recovery rates, stands as a testament to the vision and leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. This surge not only commemorates the inaugural year of the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 but also highlights the efficacy of a strategy that is a decade in the making, exemplifying resilience and adaptability as central to our economic impetus.
Under the oversight of this decisive leadership and a proven public-private partnership model, Dubai has sustained robust growth, fostering confidence within local and global industries, players and enablers.
Our success stems from a diversified portfolio, with significant gains in leisure, new emerging segments, and the MICE sector as a whole, which have been further catalysed by liberal visa policies and dynamic private sector ambition. These strides reinforce Dubai’s status as a premier destination for living, visiting, and conducting business.
With the Dubai Economic Agenda D33’s strategy serving as our economic compass for the next ten years, we are committed to strengthening the tourism sector, enhancing our assets and infrastructure, and stimulating broader economic growth. This comprehensive approach ensures tourism thrives in tandem with our goals of talent acquisition, business acceleration and government innovation, to position Dubai as the epicentre for all those eyeing their next phase of growth and expansion.”
Key regions maintain momentum
The strong tourism performance in 2023 saw Dubai maintain its position as a first-choice travel destination for visitors both from key traditional and emerging markets. From a regional perspective, the GCC and MENA delivered a combined 28% of the share, demonstrating Dubai’s allure as a trusted and favoured destination for visitors from neighbouring markets. Western Europe and South Asia accounted for 19% and 18% of arrivals respectively, while CIS/Eastern Europe recorded a 13% share. The North Asia and South-East Asia region accounted for 9% of arrivals, the Americas contributed 7%, Africa 4% and Australasia 2%.
Hotels outperform pre-pandemic levels across all metrics
Dubai’s hospitality sector, which is integral to the emirate’s destination promise and overall growth of the tourism industry, continued to perform strongly, surpassing pre-pandemic levels across all hospitality metrics – Occupancy, Occupied Room Nights, Guests’ Length of Stay, Average Daily Rate (ADR), and Revenue Per Available Room (RevPAR).
Occupancy remains among the highest in the world
Average occupancy for the hotel sector in 2023 stood at 77.4%, among the world’s highest, increasing from 72.9% in 2022 and exceeding the 75.3% average occupancy in 2019. The high occupancy level is an exceptional achievement, given an overall 19% increase in room supply in 2023 compared to 2019.
Milestone 150,000 room keys achieved
Dubai’s hotel inventory at the end of December 2023 comprised 150,291 rooms at 821 establishments, compared to 146,496 rooms available at the end of December 2022 across 804 establishments and 126,120 rooms available at the end of December 2019 across 741 establishments. Last year’s milestone achievement reflects the growth and success in the hospitality industry.
Occupied room nights surge to record high
In 2023, occupied room nights soared to a record high of 41.70 million, marking a 11% increase compared to 2022 (37.43 million). This growth also represents a substantial 30% rise from the pre-pandemic figures of 2019, which saw 32.11 million occupied room nights.
Reflecting the commitment of the city and hospitality sector to offer competitive pricing, the 2023 ADR of AED536 matched the ADR in 2022. The hotel sector’s robust performance is also evident in its RevPAR growth – an increase of 6% compared to 2022 (AED415 vs. AED391) and a growth of 33% over the pre-pandemic period of 2019 (RevPAR of AED312). Guests’ Length of Stay was 3.8 nights in 2023, a 10% increase from 3.4 nights in 2019.
Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), said: “As Dubai continues its exponential growth in alignment with the D33 Agenda set forth by our forward-thinking leadership, we remain committed to further elevating our standards and to advancing with innovative and distinctive world-class infrastructure, experiences and attractions.
The extensive range of offerings and Dubai’s reputation as a secure, inclusive and accessible destination have been consistently recognised across multiple global indices, culminating in the city being crowned the No.1 global destination for an unprecedented third year in a row in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2024.
Our partners have played a crucial role in achieving this top ranking through their contributions to Dubai’s tourism expansion and the industry’s rapid resurgence, especially with their active involvement in our global campaigns and marketing endeavours. The sustained success will further enhance visitors’ enduring trust, confidence and affinity for Dubai, as it accelerates towards the goal of becoming the best city to visit, live and work in, and ultimately converting visitors into long-term residents.
We are strategically harnessing the significant momentum generated during a highly successful 2023 to drive growth across all segments of tourism. As we look forward to welcoming more visitors in 2024, the unwavering support of our public and private sector partners will be pivotal in enhancing our capacity to showcase our unparalleled offerings tailored to cater to the diverse preferences and budgets of international travellers.”
Global liveability hub
In addition to securing the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards, Dubai also garnered recognition across various fronts, offering residents and visitors a unique blend of opportunities, safety, and world-class amenities in a vibrant and dynamic setting.
In a report by financial services provider Remitly, Dubai was hailed as the No.1 city in the world to relocate to in 2023, showcasing its allure as a preferred destination for individuals seeking new opportunities and a high quality of life. Furthermore, property consultancy Savills identified Dubai as the best city in the world for remote workers, emphasising its conducive environment for professionals embracing the virtual working lifestyle.
Dubai’s appeal as a thriving global hub was further highlighted by Euromonitor International’s Top 100 City Destinations Index 2023, which named Dubai the world’s No.2 city destination, highlighting its popularity among international travellers. The city’s recognition as one of the top 10 cities in the Global Power City Index, as reported by the Mori Memorial Foundation’s Institute for Urban Strategies in Japan, further reinforces its stature as a key player on the global stage.
Kicking off global partnerships and campaigns
As part of its year-round drive to showcase Dubai to the world, DET entered into a landmark collaboration with Spanish football giants Real Madrid Club de Fútbol. The multi-year agreement has brought together two iconic brands and builds on Real Madrid’s longtime partnership with Dubai’s flagship airline, Emirates, while Dubai Parks and Resorts™ will also be home to the first Real Madrid-themed park, Real Madrid World.
Keeping with the emirate’s “nothing is impossible” spirit, Dubai hosted another record-breaking stunt with Red Bull Air Race Champion Luke Czepiela landing his plane on the helipad of Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, encouraging visitors and residents to achieve new heights and push boundaries. Another feat in 2023 saw American Brian Grubb performing a world-first wakeskate and base jump at the Address Beach Resort.
Dubai has also established a strong and ongoing partnership with Academy Award-winning composer Hans Zimmer that goes beyond a typical concert. “Hans Zimmer Live” marked his first Middle East performance at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena during the region’s longest running Dubai Shopping Festival, kicking off a deep exploration into the city’s culture.
This collaboration was not just a one-time show. Zimmer has become a vocal supporter of Dubai, creating “Sounds of Dubai,” a unique musical piece that captures the city’s vibe.
More than just entertainment, this collaboration aligns with the Dubai Economic Agenda D33, showcasing Dubai’s ability to blend tradition with innovation, highlighting the value in its creative talent. This diverse approach enriches Dubai’s global image as a hub for culture and collaboration, contributing to the city’s ongoing success story.
International events destination
Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment (DFRE) positions Dubai as an international entertainment hub, and in 2023, the city hosted an array of year-round events spearheaded by the iconic Dubai Shopping Festival. DFRE’s annual Retail Calendar encompasses everything from arts and books, food and sports, music and concerts, heritage and culture through to shopping and fashion, as well as retail promotions offering life-changing prizes to lucky residents and visitors.
The region’s leading destination for business events, Dubai attracts a wide range of business travellers through its calendar of annual exhibitions and trade shows that are among the largest in the world. Major business and leisure events held in 2023 included Gulfood (134,000 visitors and 5,000 exhibitors), Gitex Global Dubai (170,000 visitors and 6,000 exhibitors), the International Boat Show (30,000 visitors) and Arabian Travel Market (40,000 visitors). Dubai Business Events, part of DET and the city’s official convention bureau, ensured continued growth in this space by working with stakeholders to win a record 349 bids to host international conferences, congresses, meetings, and incentive travel programmes over the coming years.
Culinary innovation and accolades
With a vibrant and thriving gastronomy scene, Dubai is a modern culinary capital with 13,000 restaurants and cafes offering a wide variety of cuisines and experiences. Following its launch in 2022, the second edition of the MICHELIN Guide Dubai was released in 2023, with three new one-star restaurants and one new two-starred included. In total, the 2023 guide featured 90 restaurants, up from 69, including three that were awarded two stars, 11 with one star, three with a Green Star, 17 Bib Gourmands and 59 Michelin selected restaurants.
Two homegrown Dubai restaurants were included in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants List for 2023. Trèsind Studio was ranked at No.11, Orfali Bros Bistro was No.46 while Ossiano was part of the extended list, at No.87. There were also 113 Dubai restaurants included in the Gault&Millau UAE 2023 guide.
Delivering on sustainability goals
Dubai is a leader in sustainability, with its efforts aligning with global objectives, such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Aligned with the Dubai Economic Agenda D33 and the UAE’s Net Zero 2050 strategy, the ongoing Dubai Sustainable Tourism (DST) drive initiated by DET provides support for the hospitality industry through several programmes.
In July 2023, DET launched the Dubai Sustainable Tourism Stamp, a new initiative, as part of DST, that recently recognised 70 hotels with the highest level of adherence to DET’s ‘19 Sustainability Requirements’, the first of its kind in the region. Developed in collaboration with Dubai’s hospitality sector, the stamp is designed to accelerate efforts towards empowering the tourism sector to achieve its sustainability goals and serve as a validation of the hotel’s dedication to sustainable practices.
Other sustainability initiatives include Dubai Can, with its ‘Refill for Life’ campaign promoting the use of reusable bottles and encouraging people to refill via 50 water fountains established throughout the city. A second Dubai Can project, the Dubai Reef, was launched in December 2023. One of the world’s largest marine reef developments, Dubai Reef is part of the city’s efforts to increase fish stocks, support sustainable fishing, and contribute to boosting food security. It will also play a vital role in reducing carbon emissions and increasing marine biodiversity. DET also relaunched the pioneering Carbon Calculator tool that measures the carbon footprint within Dubai’s hospitality sector. The city’s sustainability profile received a significant boost towards the end of 2023 when the UAE hosted COP28, the UN Climate Change Conference, at Expo City Dubai.
Global cruise and yacht tourism destination
As a key pillar of the emirate’s tourism industry, cruise tourism will help drive efforts to transform Dubai into one of the world’s top three cities for business and leisure in line with the D33 Agenda. The expansion of the cruise sector has significant benefits for Dubai as a regional tourism hub and the development of the cruising industry further consolidates Dubai’s status as a gateway to the region.
Dubai’s 2023-2024 cruise season was launched with the arrival of the luxury liner Mein Schiff 2 in October. The vessel docked at the Hamdan bin Mohammed Cruise Terminal at Mina Rashid, marking the start of another exciting period for cruise enthusiasts. Visitation by cruise passengers is largely concentrated around key cruise hubs, such as Mina Rashid which offers easy access to the historic Dubai Creek, home to the city’s rich cultural heritage, and Dubai Harbour located next to the lively Dubai Marina and the iconic Palm Jumeirah. Dubai’s position as the region’s cruise hub is further validated by the city being awarded the Best Port at the CRUCEROADICTO AWARDS in Spain, an international recognition of the best cruise lines, ships, and ports selected by global cruise travellers.
With 15 marinas, more than 3,600 berths and seamless support facilities for pleasure crafts, superyachts and gigayachts, Dubai has also become a magnet for global yacht tourism. The winter season from October to April attracts more and more yachts annually and the emirate’s strategic location provides easy access to some of the most scenic yachting destinations in the region, as well as the UAE’s stunning coastline.
New initiatives to spur growth
Another major initiative announced in 2023 was the Dubai Master Plan for Public Beaches, which aims to increase the length of public beaches by 400% by 2040 and increase services offered on public beaches by 300% by 2025. Dubai’s tourism offering will be further expanded with the implementation of the Dubai 2040 Urban Master Plan. Strategic goals of this long-term plan include doubling green and leisure areas and enhancing their qualities, safeguarding the emirate’s cultural and urban heritage, and providing sustainable and flexible means of mobility. Under the Master Plan, the total space dedicated to hotels and tourist activities will increase by over 100% over the next two decades.