Dubai is set to welcome a “record-breaking” number of visitors this year, despite UK visitor numbers still lagging slightly behind 2019 levels.
Issam Kazim, chief executive of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, told Travel Weekly he is confident the city will top its previous record number of 16.73 million visitors which means he can “stop talking about 2019 and look to the future, away from the pandemic”.
In September, Dubai welcomed 734,000 travellers from the UK, 14% more than the same month in 2022 but 3% fewer than in 2019.
Kazim said the UK remains a “key market” and the trade will be “very important” in breaking 2019 levels.
“Our record year has always been 2019 and we were on track to surpass it in 2020 but then the pandemic hit and everything stalled,” he said.
“This year’s numbers are looking like we’ll beat 2019 records which is great because we want to stop comparing everything to 2019 and push ahead, working towards the future.
“The UK trade is very important to us and, as the UK is our third largest source market, we need travel advisors to keep working as our window to the customers.”
Kazim cited lower airlift as a key reason UK visitor numbers have not recovered as quickly, but said the return of a Virgin Atlantic flight from Heathrow to the city, which began operating last month, will help close the gap.
“The load factor is healthy across the board so we are hopeful more flights will be scheduled to keep bringing in those visitors that clearly want to see us,” he said.
“There were a lot of changes in the aviation industry during the pandemic and airlines are trying as hard as they can to rehire and retrain staff and redeploy their fleet and the faster we can get that up and running the better.”
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