The maharaja of Dubai once famously stated that his city would “grow to a size which is greater than the entire population of the world.” That dream is starting to come true: as of 2013, more than a third of the world’s 6.5 billion people lived in the Middle East, and a third of those lived in Dubai. The latter is quickly becoming the world’s richest city—and the world’s most popular tourist destination.

If you have been following the news, you’ll know that Dubai’s tourism sector is finally showing signs of recovery after years of decline. The reason? A government-led initiative to attract more visitors, and help them see beyond the glitz and glamour of the city. As part of the strategy, Dubai has launched a number of new tourism services, including an international convention center, a media company, and a series of hotels in exotic locations.

Dubai’s tourism sector has been active throughout the pandemic and is now ready for a large influx of visitors, Issam Kazim, director of the Dubai Tourism and Commerce Marketing Corporation, said at a virtual press event.

According to Kazim, Dubai was one of the first destinations to open up to international visitors with strict protocols regulated by Dubai Assured and an effective vaccination programme. This year, new initiatives will be launched in Dubai to restore the confidence of tourists and encourage them to return or visit Dubai for the first time, based on the new facilities that will be available in 2021.

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Kazim said the return of tourism was due to Dubai’s Expo 2020, which was originally scheduled for last year. It will last six months, starting Jan. 1. October, and will include representatives from 190 countries. It is expected that 70% of the visitors will be foreigners.

Soraya Al-Olama, deputy director for North America, says the destination has tried to maintain its relationships with travel agents throughout the pandemic and has maintained active partnerships with Virtuoso, Signature, Travel Leaders, CCRA and other consultant networks. During the pandemic, Dubai held more than 60 webinars and trained more than 11,000 workers. There are also joint marketing and education initiatives with Abu Dhabi, another state of the UAE. In addition, according to Mr. Al-Olama, a monthly newsletter is sent to 11,000 advisors.

According to Al-Olama, the partnership with Israel began after the recent strengthening of relations between the two countries. A visit to the Jewish tourist market has already been arranged.

According to her, special attention is paid to affordable tourism and tours are also organized for this segment. Finally, Al Olama said that when the live trade conferences begin, Dubai will be an active participant.

According to Kazim, Dubai wants to change the perception that it is a two- or three-day destination that attracts a certain demographic. He said there was enough to see and do for 10 days or more, and that the country was trying to attract all populations, including women traveling alone, business travelers and families. The country has the busiest international airport in the world, so it is easy to get there and travel to other places from there, he added.

As for the destination itself, Kazim said the country has a rich cultural and artistic scene representing the 200 nationalities living there. The arts district is full of new galleries, cafes and restaurants and is bustling with energy, he said.

Kazim also said that Dubai is trying to move away from the superlatives that made it famous (such as the largest indoor ski slope). Instead, he said, the country wants to focus on the depth and quality of the visitor experience. From the moment visitors set foot on the ground to everything they do, says Kazim, we want people to have a positive impression and feel safe and at ease, as if they were at home.

Dubai’s ambition is to become a world leader in meetings and events, and Mr Kazim is optimistic about that too. He said that even now that the meetings are live, I can say with certainty that people kiss when they meet in person. He said virtual elements will complement face-to-face meetings in the future for those who cannot attend, as the virtual technology used during the pandemic now makes it easier to incorporate these elements.

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