Noodle soup for breakfast and a growing number of Chinese employees are just some of the bonuses offered by hotels in the United Arab Emirates to attract tourists from China.
And the strategy is paying off, if you look at the data. In Dubai, for example, Chinese visitors in 2014 increased 25% on the previous year. In total, a boom worth 345,000 people, according to data provided by the agency for the promotion of tourism in the country – the Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, DTCM – which recently opened three new offices in China.
The numbers are set to double by 2023, according to experts from the Intercontinental Hotels Group, which studied the issue together with Oxford Economics, the research center connected with the prestigious British university.
The forecast also takes into account the fact that today, although Chinese nationals travel a lot – they are among the main national groups in tourism – only 5% of the population hold a passport. In other words, most of the potential of expenditure of Chinese tourists remains in China – meaning international tourism has ample margins for growth.
The Emirates are thus preparing in advance, gearing up their hotels and tourism structures. Analysts agree in picking the UAE as the favorite destination of Chinese tourists who will visit the Middle East and North Africa in the near future. Abu Dhabi could welcome as many as 177,000 Chinese tourists by 2023 – or 300% more than in 2014, with an average stay of 3.2 nights. Not even traditionally popular destinations among Chinese travelers like London, Paris or Sydney are expected to perform as well.
And there is another reason leading the media in the UAE to define Chinese tourism as the ‘golden lottery ticket’: on average, the permanence of the Chinese is longer than that of other foreign visitors.
‘The Chinese are not tourists for an event, or a quick stopover”, explained the Dubai-based information website arabianbusiness.com. On the contrary, ”they want to understand the place where they are and explore its surroundings; they take their time”.
And with per capita GDP growth growing 10% every year in China – out of a population of approximately 1.3 billion – it is easy to understand why hotels in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and other emirates are doing their best to be ‘Chinese-ready’.