Dubai registers 16.7 million tourists in 2019, Chinese visitors rise

FILE PHOTO: People take photos with camels on the beach at Jumeirah Beach Residence in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, July 17, 2019. REUTERS/ Hamad I Mohammed/File Photo

DUBAI (Reuters) - The number of foreign overnight visitors to Dubai increased 5.1% to 16.7 million in 2019, helped by a rise in Chinese visitors even as tourists from top source market India fell, the government said on Tuesday.

Tourism is an important contributor to state revenue in Dubai, which will host the EXPO 2020 world fair from October and has targeted 20 million tourists by this year.

Dubai, which has spent large amounts developing its tourism sector and lacks the oil wealth of some of its neighbors, had seen growth in visitor numbers slow to less than 1% in 2018.

Almost 2 million Indians visited Dubai last year, said a statement from Dubai’s government media office, compared to more than 2 million in 2018. Specific numbers for both years were not disclosed.

The number of Chinese visitors rose 15.5% to 989,000.

Airports and ports in the United Arab Emirates are on standby to handle coronavirus cases following an outbreak of the new virus in China, though the government has not said whether any new counter-measures have been introduced.

Dubai’s top six source markets for 2019 were India, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Oman, China and Russia which together accounted for more than 7 million visitors.

Dubai is targeting more than 23 million visitors by 2025.

Reporting by Alexander Cornwell, Editing by Timothy Heritage