Pre-pandemic, the cash-rich, travel-hungry Chinese language vacationer was a principal focus for Dubai, a lot in order that a complete “China Readiness” technique was created. It included rolling out advertising and marketing campaigns on native social media app WeChat; the creation of a “Chinese language Vacationers Requirements” coaching program for employees; a raft of signings with Chinese language tour operators, and far more.
In 2016, the emirate introduced visas-on-arrival for Chinese language nationals. By 2019, China was Dubai’s fifth-largest supply market with 989,000 guests, a doubling in simply three years.
The pandemic decimated these numbers, however they’re progressively creeping again up. It began with 23,000 vacationers from China in January, making it the seventeenth largest supply market. By April, China broke into the highest 10.
Customer numbers via July put China because the eighth-largest supply market with 328,000 guests, a 311% enhance.
Can this rebound maintain going?
Peggy Li, CEO of sps:affinity, a Dubai-based consultancy, mentioned the calls for of contemporary Chinese language vacationers with Skift, and the methods through which Dubai should regulate its technique.
For some time, Dubai was a chief location for status-seeking Chinese language vacationers. Residence to the world’s largest mall, it’s a purchasing mecca, with a string of five-star resorts immediately recognizable to abroad vacationers.
Extra just lately, nonetheless, this “glitz and glamor,” as Li refers to it, has worn off for the brand new wave of Chinese language vacationers. This could immediate a shift in direction of different demographics, together with company vacationers.
“Dubai wants one thing greater than only a way of life angle now. I believe this bling of Dubai factor is slowly carrying off,” Li stated. “Dubai can emphasize its place because the business springboard of the Center East. Company friends will spend. Anybody requested to station in Saudi Arabia will come to Dubai at the least as soon as a month. Chinese language are creatures of consolation, we’d like sure comforts. It’s not solely alcohol I imply, it’s the purchasing, it’s the meals as effectively.”
Shifts in Purchasing
Regardless of Li’s predictions, a report revealed earlier this yr stated Chinese language are nonetheless coming to the area to buy.
Based on the Could 2023 report by the posh consulting agency Agility, greater than 20% of Chinese language millionaires have intentions to journey to the Center East inside the subsequent 12 months, primarily in search of offers on high-end items.
Li nonetheless sees curiosity in purchasing, however inside China itself.
Home vacationers have began to discover the nation’s personal developments, particularly Sanya on Hainan Island, which rivals Dubai when it comes to purchasing. Sanya is dwelling to the third Kerzner-managed Atlantis lodge: Atlantis Sanya, which opened in 2018.
Li stated: “Purchasing has been one of many largest attracts to come back to Dubai earlier than…However China has its personal tax-free zone now. Hainan Island. China has created a large duty-free zone there. Now the Chinese language are considering, ‘What if the tax rebate doesn’t add up when shopping for a ticket to Dubai?’”
One other challenge for Dubai’s tourism market is a scarcity of coaching, in line with Li. “If I’m coming to Dubai as a Chinese language traveler, I don’t wish to make a idiot of myself if I can’t communicate English. Chinese language audio system are missing within the entrance of the home throughout each single certainly one of Dubai’s iconic resorts.”
These shortcomings culminate in a scarcity of repeat enterprise again into the town, Li steered. “The one repeat enterprise you usually see is company enterprise. Leisure vacationers usually simply ‘tick the field’ to see sure sights or do sure actions.”
“China has such an enormous inhabitants, so a Chinese language ‘one-hit surprise’ for Dubai tourism will nonetheless be sufficient for a few years.”
Outdated Techniques Die Arduous
Li’s dialogue of “previous techniques” not working anymore echoes comparable sentiments from Journey.com’s Chief Working Officer, Schubert Lou, on the Skift World Discussion board East 2022.
Merely advertising and marketing resorts, flights, and vehicles in a standard manner gained’t minimize it anymore, Lou stated, arguing content material must be inspirational and really inform vacationers what they’ll do in a vacation spot and why it may be particular.
“That to me is the long run,” Lou stated on the occasion.
Robust Pandemic Bounce Again in Dubai
One-hit-wonder methods or not, insights supplied by ForwardKeys to Skift present that Chinese language tourism is trying robust in Dubai.
In Could, Chinese language journey to Dubai had already as soon as totally rebounded to pre-pandemic ranges, primarily propelled by Labor Day Journey. Within the first 9 months of this yr, Chinese language journey to Dubai has reached 69% of the degrees seen in 2019, and roughly 17 instances the figures from 2022. The variety of obtainable seats from China to Dubai has bounced again to 64% of the degrees seen in 2019, largely because of Chinese language airways, which maintain a 49% share of complete seats and have achieved an 84% restoration charge.
Throughout the upcoming Golden Week journey interval, Dubai stands out as probably the most sought-after locations for Chinese language vacationers, experiencing a 58% development in comparison with 2019 ranges. And, it’s vital to notice that total outbound journey remains to be lagging at roughly 40% behind 2019 figures.
Looking forward to This fall, ahead bookings for journey from China to Dubai have totally rebounded to pre-pandemic ranges, aligning with the seat capability that has surpassed 2019’s ranges by 4%.
Dubai has not solely remained a well-liked vacation spot for Chinese language vacationers however has additionally strengthened its place as a hub after the pandemic. Within the context of Chinese language journey to Europe, Dubai has emerged as the biggest worldwide hub, increasing its market share by 3 share factors, whereas Doha noticed a 1 share level lower in its share in 2023.
How one can Make The Numbers Nice
But when Dubai needs really stellar efficiency relating to Chinese language tourism, it must assume in another way, in line with Li.
She stated: “Dubai has to manicure its picture on [Chinese] social media to make the place nonetheless related and engaging.
“The tour operators want extra evolution. It can’t simply be Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, and so forth. There must be diversification. China is big on glamping proper now, for example. They’re large on sports activities tourism. Dubai has such terrain, it has sports activities competitions, and it ought to put extra emphasis on advertising and marketing to China.
“Much more could be finished, not simply displaying off the glamor. You lose the luster.”