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Dubai reinforces its status as one of the world’s most open cities in the post-pandemic world

The Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2022 concluded last week having attracted more than 23,000 visitors from across the world at its first full-capacity event since the pandemic. The four-day event, which doubled its visitors from last year, brought together 1,500 exhibitors and attendees from 150 countries, demonstrating Dubai’s growing reputation as the globe’s most open city in the post-pandemic world. 

The city’s exceptional handling of the pandemic, its ability to provide one of the world’s safest environments and the gathering pace of its economic growth have made it a preferred international destination for business, tourism and events. The increasing confidence of global travelers in Dubai is borne out by the fact that key indicators in its tourism, hospitality and MICE sectors are now meeting and even exceeding pre-pandemic levels. 

Tourism hotspot

Dubai welcomed almost four million international overnight visitors between January and March 2022, a massive 214 per cent growth from last year, reaffirming its position as the first choice destination for global travellers. The city also ranked No.1 globally in hotel occupancy in the first quarter of 2022, with 82%. 

Dubai International (DXB) continued to be the world's busiest airport by international passenger numbers for the eighth consecutive year, clocking 29.1 million in annual traffic in 2021. Dubai International also recorded its busiest quarter since 2020, with 13.6 million passengers shuttling through its gateway in the first quarter of 2022. Passenger traffic in the emirate’s airports surpassed the 10 million mark for the second consecutive quarter in Q1 2022. In March this year alone, Dubai International Airport saw 5.5 million visitors. 

Popular family-friendly events in the last six months continued to raise Dubai’s profile as a major destination for culture, shopping, and entertainment. The 26th season of Global Village concluded recently with a record-breaking 7.8 million visitors. Its longest season ever, Global Village was open for 194 days, four more than its previous record. In addition, the ongoing Dubai Food Festival, and the 25th edition of Dubai Summer Surprises, the region’s biggest festival of its kind, are set to substantially increase tourist arrivals and strengthen Dubai’s appeal as a summer tourism hotspot. 

With 12,000 restaurants and cafes, Dubai has also been steadily growing as a gastronomic hotspot. The city entices food-lovers with its world-renowned chefs, global restaurant brands, street food and home-grown restaurants inspired by the over 200 nationalities living in the emirate.

Earlier this year, Tripadvisor’s Travellers’ Choice 2022 report named Dubai as the world’s most popular travel destination. Furthermore, Dubai’s recent selection as the No.1 destination for ‘City Lovers’ and No. 4 destination for ‘Food Lovers’ in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2022 validate the city’s enduring appeal for global travellers.

Apart from its diverse travel and tourism experiences, confidence in health and safety protocols has played a major role in Dubai’s popularity. The city has one of the world’s most comprehensive precautionary regimes as well as one of the highest vaccination rates.  

The globe’s leading MICE destination

In 2021, Dubai established itself as the world’s leading meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) destination, hosting a number of events that put it at the heart of global conversations on the recovery of key sectors. According to Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, the city has captured a total of 120 events for the year 2021 and beyond that are set to bring together a total of 70,000 opinion leaders, government officials and industry professionals. 

Expo 2020 Dubai, the largest event in the history of World Expos, saw 192 participating countries coming together for ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’ in a celebration of culture, innovation and science. The six-month mega global extravaganza attracted over 24 million visits by residents and global travellers. Other global events that helped drive international visitation included the Dubai World Cup, Binance Blockchain Week, Gulfood, Dubai International Boat Show, and the iconic Dubai Shopping Festival. This year’s World Government Summit in Dubai brought together more than 4,000 international participants, including top government officials to share ideas for building responsive governments that can deal with the challenges of the future.

In the last six months, Dubai also hosted major industry congresses and conferences including the Congress of the Société Internationale d'Urologie, Society of Petroleum Engineers Annual Technical Conference and Exhibition, International Astronautical Congress, World Chambers Congress and Gastech, bringing together industry leaders from all over the world. 

Sports tourism hotspot 

Over the past year, Dubai’s sports sector emerged as a key driver of the city’s tourism recovery, attracting both players and fans from around the world and further enhancing Dubai’s position as a multi-faceted destination. Major winners and former champions headlined a star-studded field at the Dubai Desert Classic held at Emirates Golf Club in January this year. The world’s leading tennis stars participated in the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships (DDFTC) men’s tournament, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in February this year. In November last year, Dubai was also the venue for the majority of the matches and the final of the month-long ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup, followed passionately by billions of cricket fans. 

Health tourism gathers pace

The past year also saw Dubai strengthening its status as one of the world’s top ranked health tourism destinations with 630,000 international health tourists, according to a report released by the Dubai Health Authority (DHA).  Spending of international patients reached nearly AED730 million in the past year despite the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dubai’s emergence as one of the most open destinations in the post-pandemic world reflects its ability to reinvent itself in an evolving global environment.  The vast international diversity of its visitors also demonstrates Dubai’s growing status as a city that bridges global markets and cultures.


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