What will soaring tourism numbers mean for the UAE’s property sector and economic future?

The UAE tourism sector has experienced dramatic growth over the past decade. According to Dubai’s Department of Economy and Tourism (DET), there were more than 14.36 million international overnight visitors to Dubai in 2022, surpassing global and regional tourism recovery levels. 

Tourism is a major source of revenue and economic growth and a fundamental driver of large-scale investments and development throughout the UAE. 

HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, recently launched a UAE Tourism Strategy 2031, which aims to boost the number of tourists visiting the country, increase development and investment, and increase the tourism sector’s GDP contribution to $122.6 billion. 

By 2031, the strategy aims to attract new investments of $27.2 billion in the tourism sector and attract 40 million hotel guests. 

Dubai was ranked the best destination for holidaymakers in the world for 2023 — for the second year in a row – in the annual Trip Advisor Travellers’ Choice Awards. It was also ranked the second most attractive city for tourists in 2022 by Euromonitor. 

While writing this blog, I noticed news articles proclaiming Dubai’s hotels are at 100% capacity this week – an incredible feat, which also underlines our great city’s popularity, not only in terms of tourism but, of course, business and conferences, as well. 

And that’s without accommodating the expected influx of Chinese tourists after that nation’s travel ban has been lifted. 

One area that has particularly benefitted from the influx of travellers – now almost exceeding pre-pandemic levels – is the property sector. 

As tourism remains one of the UAE’s most important industries, we have witnessed an associated rise in demand for real estate, especially hotel rooms and vacation homes. 

Savvy developers have responded by investing heavily in construction projects catering to this need, creating stunning five-star hotels, resorts and entire luxury communities with great appeal for tourists, such as Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina. 

Hotels, resorts and holiday homes provide jobs both directly within their premises and indirectly through associated businesses such as transportation companies. 

Figures from the World Travel and Tourism Council reveal the number of tourism and tourism-related jobs in Dubai, and Abu Dhabi reached 305,000 in 2022 – that’s the same number as pre-pandemic. Compared to the WTTC’s figure of 273,000 people employed in this sector in 2021, we can see some 32,000 jobs were created in the industry last year. 

Tourism work – especially in Dubai, attracts global talent. People who are well trained, eager to progress their career – and join one of the many MNCs operating in the tourism sector in the UAE. Of course, these employees not only enhance the UAE’s tourism offering, but they need accommodation, and they contribute to the economy just as everyone does in terms of buying goods and services. 

To some extent, tourism even drives infrastructure – I’m reminded of the Palm Jumeirah monorail and the growing Dubai Metro, both built with greater ease of travel in mind – which benefits the population, businesses and tourists. 

And while the Etihad Rail megaproject – creating rail links across the UAE and into Saudi Arabia and Oman – is initially for cargo, by 2030, it will transport passengers too – another example of infrastructure creating tourism. 

In a city of around 3.5m people, it’s incredible to think that we hosted over 14 million visitors last year – a figure which is certainly set to rise. And that can only mean that the property sector needs to respond to the growing needs of tourists – which means more investment, more development, and sustained hotel and accommodation prices. 

In short, if we continue to witness such growing tourism numbers – and global popularity – then the local and even regional property markets can only benefit. While the volume of tourists – and business visitors – vastly outnumber the local population – there will always be a need for growth in the property sector. 


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