Dubai: The destination that keeps on giving with Hoor al Khaja

Dubai: The destination that keeps on giving with Hoor al Khaja

Dubai The destination that keeps on giving with Hoor al Khaja

Offering broad-based appeal through its heady mix of futuristic skyscrapers, man-made wonders and rich cultural heritage, it’s easy to see why Dubai clinched the coveted top global destination spot for the second successive year in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2023. Hoor Al Khaja, associate vice president, International Operations, Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism, charts the emirate’s robust post-pandemic rebound and tells HN what’s next on the tourism agenda for this regional success story.

What do you think has helped Dubai to successfully position itself as a ‘must-visit’ destination?

Dubai has made its mark as one of the world’s leading tourism destinations, driven by the visionary aspirations of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, prime minister and UAE vice president. The city is a melting pot of cultures and home to a huge variety of activities, attractions and offerings.
On one hand, it is a futuristic metropolis of skyscrapers, man-made wonders and cutting-edge technology. On the other, it is rich in culture, with traditions passed down through generations and heritage ready to be explored.

Dubai has an extensive array of attractions and amenities that make even luxury travel experiences within reach for budget-conscious travelers. The array of hotels catering to all budgets and visitor profiles in Dubai are testament to the sustained growth of the hospitality industry. Dubai also guarantees visitors a unique and cosmopolitan lifestyle with a high level of safety and security, in addition to ease of access to the city.

Which visitor groups are you looking to reach through your tourism campaigns?

Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET) strategically rolls out global and customized in-market campaigns to highlight the city’s diverse offerings across a range of key pillars spanning many leisure touchpoints, from heritage, entertainment and outdoor adventures to beach activities, gastronomy, shopping and family-oriented experiences.

By developing, facilitating and promoting a year-round calendar of leisure and business events, recreational activities and festivals, as well as supporting the development of attractions and entertainment facilities, Dubai’s DET elevates the livability of the destination and its appeal to the city’s visitors and residents. Some of the key campaigns under Dubai Festivals and Retail Establishment, part of Dubai’s DET, include the Dubai Food Festival, which celebrated its milestone 10th edition earlier this year, and Dubai Esports and Games Festival, which launched in 2022 and celebrates all things esports and gaming. Building on our advantage as a leading family-friendly destination, Dubai’s DET launched the ‘Kids Go Free’ campaign this summer season, featuring exceptional staycation deals at leading hotels and attractions for families.

What impact is Dubai’s growing gastronomy scene having on the city’s tourism industry?

Dubai is a city that celebrates diversity, innovation and excellence in everything it does, and this is reflected in our gastronomy scene. Today, visitors to the city will find everything from world-renowned chefs to global restaurant brands across more than 13,000 restaurants and cafes, offering cuisines and dining concepts influenced by over 200 nationalities.

Dubai’s culinary offering has received critical acclaim, winning international awards and accolades that further reinforce its position as an international hub for gastronomy. The launch of the second edition of the Michelin Guide Dubai, featuring a total of 90 restaurants, including 17 Bib Gourmand winners, and the inclusion of three Dubai restaurants in the World’s Best Restaurants List for 2023, have helped raise Dubai’s international profile as a culinary destination. Gault&Millau, one of the world’s most widely respected fine dining food critique brands, has also established itself on the city’s gastronomy scene with its annual UAE Guide, featuring top gourmet dining restaurants. In addition, Dubai was ranked as one of the world’s top 10 cities for foodies by Compare The Market 2023.

What do you regard as DET’s biggest achievements to date?

Dubai’s resurgent tourism industry has maintained a steady upward trajectory, surpassing even pre-pandemic visitation levels and achieving accolades and milestones along the way. We welcomed a record 9.83 million visitors from January to July 2023 compared to 9.58 million during the corresponding pre-pandemic period in 2019.

Hotels have also continued with their robust performance, with all key performance indicators exceeding pre-pandemic levels. The average length of stay of guests increased to 3.8 nights (up from 3.4 nights for the same period in 2019), highlighting the city’s appeal for longer-stay travelers, while the total of 23.85 million occupied room nights in the first seven months of the year represents 13 percent year-on-year growth and a 32 percent increase compared to the pre-pandemic period of H1 2019. The average daily rate (ADR) of AED 508 during the first seven months of the year surpassed the ADR of H1 2019 (AED 422), marking
20 percent growth, while revenue per available room (RevPAR) of AED 388 from January-July 2023 increased significantly by 24 percent compared to the first seven months of the pre-pandemic period of 2019 (AED 313). Dubai’s hotels also achieved an average occupancy of 76 percent during the first seven months of 2023, which ranks among the world’s highest, compared to 74 percent occupancy during the same period in H1 2019.

Among our accolades, Dubai was crowned the No.1 global destination for the second successive year in the Tripadvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards 2023 and ranked 2nd in the Conde Nast Traveller’s ‘Where to Travel Next 2023 Hot List.’

What are DET’s tourism goals for 2023 and beyond?

Our focus for the rest of 2023 and beyond will be to drive and support growth, leveraging the diversity of experiences, across all tourism pillars, in line with the goals of the D33 Agenda. Looking ahead, we will focus on the key growth pillars of sustainability, gastronomy, trade and technology.

With 2023 declared as the UAE’s ‘Year of Sustainability,’ this is indeed a landmark year, particularly as Dubai prepares to host COP28, the UN climate change conference, and as the city sets to take a more evolved, collaborative, inclusive and long-term approach to sustainable growth.

We always strive to successfully balance sustainability with our destination strategies. In line with this drive, Dubai’s DET recently announced the launch of the Dubai Sustainable Tourism Stamp, a new sustainability initiative that seeks to recognize hotels with the highest adherence to the DET’s sustainability standards, called the ‘19 Sustainability Requirements.’ The new stamp is designed to accelerate efforts toward empowering the tourism sector to achieve its sustainability goals and support the UAE’s NetZero 2050 initiative. The city’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050 and the implementation of the Dubai Sustainable Tourism initiatives demonstrates the city’s dedication to providing every guest with eco-conscious hospitality offerings.

We are also constantly looking at additional avenues for growth, offering pathways for deeper engagement and longevity with Dubai. Initiatives such as the Golden Visa, the Five-Year Multi-Entry Visa for employees of multinational companies and the Virtual Working and Retire in Dubai programs have been instrumental in supporting this strategy.

Dubai’s resilience, combined with its diversified market approach and its ability to remain agile and adapt to the evolving global economy, will ensure the city remains one of the world’s most sought-after tourism destinations.


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About author

Rita Ghantous

Rita Ghantous is a hospitality aficionado and a passionate writer with over 9 years’ experience in journalism and 5 years experience in the hospitality sector. Her passion for the performance arts and writing, started early. At 10 years old she was praised for her solo performance of the Beatles song “All My Love” accompanied by a guitarist, and was approached by a French talent scout during her school play. However, her love for writing was stronger. Fresh out of school, she became a freelance journalist for Noun Magazine and was awarded the Silver Award Cup for Outstanding Poetry, by The International Library of Poetry (Washington DC). She studied Business Management and earned a Masters degree from Saint Joseph University (USJ), her thesis was published in the Proche-Orient, Études en Management book. She then pursued a career in the hospitality industry but didn’t give up writing, that is why she launched the Four Points by Sheraton Le Verdun Newsletter. Her love for the industry and journalism led her to Hospitality Services - the organizers of the HORECA trade show in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan, as well as Salon Du Chocolat, Beirut Cooking Festival, Whisky Live and other regional shows. She is currently the Publications Executive of Hospitality News Middle East, Taste & Flavors and Lebanon Traveler. It is with ultimate devotion for her magazines that she demonstrates her hospitality savoir-faire.

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