Dubai says it is looking at all opportunities to increase airlift to the emirate as its second airport Al Maktoum International comes on stream.
Issam Kazim chief executive of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, said the city is aiming to break into the world’s top three most visited. It is currently number four.
Kazim was speaking to trade media at this week’s World Travel Market in London where Dubai once again had a major presence alongside other Middle Eastern destinations.
He said Dubai is working with key partners, like local carriers, to encourage more capacity to meet pent-up demand from people wanting to visit the destination.
“We have moved on from Covid, it’s old news,” he said, “but at the same time some countries have not yet come back. Data shows there is massive demand for the destination.”
Kazim said visitor figures for the year to August were back up beyond the record it saw pre-Covid in 2029 with 11.1 million compared to 10.85 million.
Hotel occupancy, Average Daily Rates (ADRS) and REVPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) are back above pre-Covid levels despite Dubai having 25% more rooms available.
However, flight capacity has still not returned to 2019 levels and Dubai Tourism will work to offer incentives to carriers to return and may even charter aircraft during peak periods, said Kazim.
He said he was delighted with the return of Virgin Atlantic after a four-year hiatus. The airline announced in June that it will operate four flights a week to the emirate from October.
Emirates continues to grow its hub business at Dubai International Airport and Kazim said the tourism authority is “looking for any opportunity” for its customers to use Dubai as a stopover.
The airport is currently the world’s biggest international hub and Kazim said in some respects Dubai is a victim of Emirates’ own success in becoming one of the biggest global carriers.
Despite being used as an international hub, 25% of visitors to Dubai are repeats and the emirate believes once travellers use it as a stopover them tend to come back.
The emirate is four hours flying time from one third of the world’s population and eight hours from two thirds, so the Al Maktoum International (DWC) is expected to be the future for further growth.
Kazim said: “It was on the outskirts of the city when it was first planned but today it’s smack in the middle, so we are looking to expand there.”
DWC is due to be fully completed in 2030 and Kazim said it will offer more flexibility to local airlines, like FlyDubai, scheduled carrier and potentially for charter flights to meet peak demand.
“Post Covid people saw Dubai in a very different light because it was one of the safest destinations so people spent more time in Dubai.
“Because of our open skies policy many people started to relocate their offices and HQs to Dubai and now we are talking about people making Dubai their home.
“And during Covid we were able to win many global conferences, exhibitions and business events. We have won bids to host over 100 events in the next two years.”
At the end of this month Dubai will play host to the COP28 international summit on climate change and next year it will become the focus for the aviation sector when it hosts the 80th IATA AGM in June.