Dubai: Cruise tourism is one of the fastest growing segments of Dubai’s tourism industry, according to a new report from Dubai Chamber, and the city is among the world’s leading winter cruise destinations.
Cruise season in Dubai runs from November and March each year. According to Cruise Arabia and Africa, the number of cruise passengers in Dubai increased from 320,000 in the 2013/2014 cruise season, to 625,000 in the 2016/2017 season, representing a 95 per cent growth rate.
According to the report, the number of cruise ship calls to Dubai at Hamdan Bin Mohammad Cruise Terminal at Port Rashid increased by 68 per cent, from 93 in 2013/2014 cruise season to 156 in 2016/2017.
Over the next cruise season (2018/2019), the tourism board of Dubai says it expects to see 725,000 cruise tourists and 825,000 cruise tourists in the 2019/2020 season.
“Dubai has the most modern and the largest dedicated port facility in the Middle East,” the report states. “This facility enables Dubai to comfortably handle complete passenger turnaround of six cruise ships simultaneously and helps to strengthen Dubai’s place as a leading cruise hub of the region.”
In the coming cruise season, 83 cruise ships are expected to use Dubai as a transit city and Dubai cruise port will be the last destination for 30 cruises.
According to Dubai Chamber, the government is increasingly incorporating cruise tourism into its broader strategy for attracting more visitors to the city.
A number of policies have been implemented to support the cruise tourism industry in Dubai, including issuing multiple-entry UAE visas exclusively for cruise tourists.
State-owned ports operator DP World, meanwhile, said it would reduce port charges at Dubai Cruise Terminal by 50 per cent for the months of October and April during the 2018/2019 season.
The government has also announced plans to transform Dubai into a fully integrated maritime tourism hub and build new cruise terminals. The new Dubai Cruise Terminal project is expected to begin operations in October 2020, and will have the capacity to accommodate six cruise ships at the same time.
Dubai Chamber’s report claims that there are a number of opportunities to attract cruise lines to Dubai, with cruise operators focusing on the following factors when choosing a cruise destination: Onshore activities; learning and exploration; visual surroundings; safety and comfort; and destination development.
The report calls for more “unique and interesting shore excursions” in Dubai and in other ports of the region during the shoulder period in order to increase the number of cruise lines as well as passengers.
Between 2011 and 2016, US, Chinese and German tourists were the top three countries in the number of ocean cruise passengers globally (Figure 3). However, in Dubai, German tourists accounted for the biggest share of cruise passengers. The report touts Dubai as potentially a strong cruise destination for new markets, as well, including India, Russia and China, which are the top growing travel markets in the world.