Canadian Travel Press
Issue Date: Oct 21, 2019

A city with a vision of the future



These are good days for Dubai’s tourism industry, and considering what’s happening in the next year and a half, things are just going to get that much better.

In October 2020, Dubai will become the focus of world attention with the opening of the Expo 2020 Dubai World Expo that will run for six months. But, between then and now, the destination will also see the opening of a host of new attractions to entertain, amuse and excite visitors.

Soraya Al Olama, Head of North America for the Department of Tour-ism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism), points out that Dubai’s Vision 2025 is a plan that will see the destination welcome 25 million visitors by 2025.

Al Olama told Canadian Travel Press that: “Dubai is doing extremely well. We’ve cemented ourselves as the fourth most-visited city in the world, five years in a row. And [Vision 2025] is the platform for future acceleration.”

And she added that: “We’re also up 6% [in] the first seven months of this year [2019] compared to last year [2018], where we’ve welcomed 9.58 million visitors into the city. And we’re expecting that this quarter of the year, we’re also going to be experiencing healthy growth from all regions.”

From the Americas, Al Olama said that Dubai is up by 6% during the first seven months of 2019, and “we’re foreseeing a lot of growth as well from the Canadian market” that’s being driven by the additional capacity that Emirates has brought on in the last year.

So far in 2019, Canada is up by 4%, but Al Olama noted that in the month of July, Canada was up by an “incredible” 19%.


As for why Dubai is posting such remarkable gains from Canada – not to mention from its markets around the world – Al Olama told CTP that: “With Emirates increasing its capacity, it has made it a lot more accessible for people to get to Dubai.”

Coupled with that, Al Olama points out that: “Dubai offers incredible, affordable luxury. And we’re also aiming to become the number-one family destination in the world, and you see that in a lot of the infrastructure and services that we provide. We’re great when it comes to culinary experiences; outdoor [experiences], specifically with our National Park, Hatta – that’s become popular in the last two years. It’s incredible. Perfect for families and people who are interested in the outdoors.”

Emirates’ Manager – Canada, Don McWilliam pointed out that the carrier has increased its capacity by 61% since August of 2018; going from three flights a week to five flights a week out of Canada.

“We’ve been thrilled with the results,” he told CTP. “We’ve not only met that increased capacity, in terms of bookings, we’ve exceeded that capacity over the last year. And our advanced bookings for the next six months or so are very positive through all channels of our distribution. We’re pleased with the results and we think Expo 2020 is really going to assist us even further, as we go forward into October 2020.”


In many ways, the combination of the growth that Dubai has been experiencing and the fact that Expo 2020 will put it in the world spotlight provides it with an opportunity to travellers that it is more than a stopover destination.

Al Olama said: “At this stage, Dubai could be an incredible mono-destination, particularly with all of the new developments and experiences that we have to offer. But we still, of course, position ourselves as a great stopover destination. We pair really well with Abu Dhabi. So, we’re trying to also position ourselves as a regional destination paired with Abu Dhabi, as we both have a lot to offer that’s very different. We complement each other and we don’t compete.”

Dubai Tourism’s Soraya Al Olama with Emirates’ Don McWilliam

But she said that for long-haul travellers, Dubai also pairs well with South Africa, or anywhere in Africa or Asia for that matter

As for its key source markets, Al Olama pointed to proximity markets like India, the GCC (the Gulf Corporation Council, which includes Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE) and the United Kingdom (Dubai’s third-largest source market). China is booming and is currently the fifth-largest market; the US is seventh; and Canada has moved up from 20th in 2018 to 18th in 2019 and that, she said is “incredible.”

Now, while Expo 2020 Dubai will certainly be the focus of attention in the next year and a half, agents should ignore the fact that the destination has lots more to offer beyond the World Expo.

“Expo 2020 Dubai is the highlight of next year, of course, but it’s also complementary to all of the other incredible experiences that we have,” Al Olama said.

And she pointed to the opening of the new Museum of the Future which will open in 2020, as well as the world’s largest ferris wheel, Ain Dubai, which is also set to open next year as well as Dubai’s desert national park, Hatta has other experiences that will appeal to visitors.


So, the question is why should travel agents sell Dubai?

Said Al Olama: “Agents should sell Dubai because we’re an incredible destination that offers something for everyone.”

Through Dubai’s College of Tourism – its agency training program – agents can learn all they need to know about the destination.

Here retailers will find “incredible tools to help them better sell Dubai before they can actually make it to the destination themselves,” Al Olama said. “It’s an interactive game that focuses on different segments. It teaches them how to sell to a family; to a couple and puts them into different situations. There are video modules as well. And then, of course, they can become certified.”

Agents can sign up for the training program – which is regularly updated because of how Dubai is constantly changing – at

Dubai is also updating its web site, and it will have a trade platform where agents, operators, etc. can get all of the latest updates that are happening in the city.

On the question of packaging both Dubai and Expo 2020, Emirates’ McWilliam explained that during her visit, Al Olama would be meeting with tour operators to discuss this.

“So, the tour operators would come directly to us, at Emirates, for package pricing and we would work with Dubai Tourist Board and would also work with companies like Arabian Adventures. As you know, we’ve got another company here in Toronto we use a tremendous amount,, which is Robert from Kompass Express. And we’re going to be becoming a little bit more aggressive with regards to tour operators and packages, particularly as we go into Expo 2020. I think what we’re looking for is for some tour operators to sell Dubai as a package when it includes Expo 2020 at the same time,” explained McWilliam.

So, what’s the message for Canadian travel agents and tour operators?

Well, said Al Olama: “It’s that Dubai is an incredible destination that caters to everyone. We are, as a people, very welcoming and warm.”