Dubai tourism numbers soar despite Middle East conflict, top boss tells Travel Weekly

Dubai tourism numbers soar despite Middle East conflict, top boss tells Travel Weekly

An exclusive Q&A with Shahab Shayan, Dubai Tourism Regional Director for Asia-Pacific addressing all the questions you might have.

The Middle East is opening its doors to tourism. Qatar airport has been crowned No.1 airport globally and Saudi Arabia seems to be attracting a buzz. Where does Dubai fit into this equation?

We are excited to see the growth in the Middle East. We are pleased to see the growth in the GCC and the infrastructure in the tourism industry. Dubai has always been supportive, even at times where Saudi has won the Expo and Qatar won the FIFA world Cup. We will continue to work together to drive healthy competition in the region, it helps us look at what the future holds for Dubai and how we can grow and continue to develop.

We associate Dubai with glitz and the glamour. Is affordable travel a new focus for Dubai and what does that mean?

Dubai has really evolved over the last 10 years. There are more 3-4 start hotels in Dubai than 5 stars and that’s the common misconception. We have prices across the year that give us a competitive edge and those who return to Dubai have realised that they can shift their travel to be more budget friendly the second and third time. The Australian market is particularly important to us as it’s our biggest stopover market globally. We want to position Dubai where it allows travellers the confidence in travelling in a way that is suitable to their budgets.

Has the unrest in the Middle East, in Palestine and Israel, impacted the number of travellers you see in Dubai?

For us, in 2023, we set a record for the highest number of visitors with 17.1 million overnight visitors which is amazing. This quarter also we have had the best result we have ever had with over 5.1 million overnight visitors. In terms of numbers, Dubai is looking onwards and upwards.

What are some misconceptions that you often hear from travellers about Dubai?

We have over 200 nationalities that live in Dubai harmoniously, we are a multicultural space and everyone is respected and treated equally. We welcome all travellers from all parts of the world. Visiting during Ramadan has really evolved over the last five years, including eating and drinking openly at restaurants and malls. Historically this has not been the case and this has been a welcomed changed for tourism.

Wellness has been a big focus for Dubai, we are constantly evolving and catering to a growing market. Our new opening, Siro One Za’abeel, is a property that purely focuses on wellness, looking after your body and mind which is a new interesting way to look at a niche travel sector.

Another point is that Dubai can be affordable, we keep getting stuck with the elements that we are historically known for which is ultra-luxury. Although we offer this, travel agents should know that Dubai is the perfect family-friendly stopover destination which caters for all styles and travellers.

Shahab Shayan, Dubai Tourism Regional Director for Asia-Pacific, at a recent tourism event in Sydney.

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