Tourists from Asian countries such as India and Iran are patronising Dubai hotels in growing numbers, while Arab visitors from the GCC are declining, according to new figures from the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM).
The shift in tourist demographics reflects Dubai’s growing appeal among newly affluent Asian consumers and a growing interest in the Gulf for exploring emerging alternatives such as Oman, analysts say.
The number of Asian visitors to Dubai in the first nine months of last year increased by 11 percent over the previous year, reproted Abu Dhabi daily, The National. The two predominant contributors were Iran and India, which together made up more than half of the total from the region.
However, numbers of Arab tourists from the GCC fell by 15 percent, the figures showed. The data also showed that the total number of travellers from the Middle East – including from countries such as Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon – dropped during the first nine months of 2008.
“GCC travellers are now looking at other emerging destinations in the region such as Jordan, Oman and Kuwait rather than revisiting Dubai,” said Caroline Bremner, the head of travel and tourism research at Euromonitor International, a global market research firm.
“There is a drop in Arab visitors because other countries in the region are becoming so competitive with prices and Dubai is far from being a cheap destination,” said Ms Bremner.
The total number of tourists visiting Dubai hotels in the first nine months of 2008 was 5.4 million, according to the DTCM figures. This is six percent higher than the year before using the average quarterly figure of 2007 as a benchmark.
Europeans dominated the numbers, with 1.7 million tourists in the nine months, followed by Arabs and Asians, both around 1.3milion for the January-to-September period.