Dubai’s major airport recently announced that it has maintained its position as the world’s busiest for international travel, with over 29 million people passing through the global gateway each year. The passenger statistics for 2021 are optimistic for Dubai’s tourism-driven economy, which is considered as a crucial connection between East and West.
The figures indicate that international travel has increased somewhat since the coronavirus pandemic triggered massive worldwide lockdowns and border closures in 2020.
Last year’s statistic marks a 12% increase in traffic at Dubai International Airport over 2020, which had approximately 26 million passengers.
Nonetheless, even with 29.1 million people passing through Dubai International Airport, or DXB, last year, the statistic is nothing near the airport’s pre-pandemic high of 86.4 million in annual traffic in 2019.
A six-month-long expo, which was postponed by a year owing to the epidemic, is presently taking place in Dubai. Expo 2020, which debuted in October and runs until the end of March, has drawn millions of tourists as well as heads of state, royalty, and celebrities, further cementing Dubai’s position as a global destination. However, it is unclear what the expo’s total contribution has been to Dubai’s economic recovery.
Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, stated that the airport expects 57 million passengers this year, with a complete return to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
“Dubai has done an excellent job of calming visitors. It’s a safe place to visit for vacation and to conduct business. I believe the real tendencies toward recovery are extremely positive,” Griffiths added.
It is the eighth year in a row that Dubai International Airport has been named the world’s busiest for international travel, surpassing London’s Heathrow and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson for global travelers, despite the fact that the latter is among the busiest in terms of overall passenger traffic.
Last year, India accounted for the lion’s share of traffic to Dubai, with 4.2 million visitors, followed by Pakistan, with 1.8 million visitors. Saudi Arabia, which is aggressively seeking to attract business and tourists in direct rivalry with Dubai and the larger United Arab Emirates, is a significant growing market for travel to and from Dubai.
More than 100,000 British residents live in the UAE. Last year, Dubai’s main airport received 1.2 million travelers from the United Kingdom, including 77,000 in December alone.
Dubai was obliged to stop all passenger aircraft and close its airports for eight weeks in the spring of 2020 due to directives from the UAE aviation authority. In contrast to the UAE’s capital, Abu Dhabi, Dubai immediately reopened its doors to visitors. Dubai does not demand confirmation of Covid-19 immunization and most venues do not require a negative viral test to enter.
This strategy has not been without cost. For much of last year, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries designated the UAE as a “do not travel” destination.
“What we’re now trying to do is campaign globally for the relaxation of travel restrictions and testing,” Griffiths said. “But we now see the requirement for that is receding. We just need to get governments to recognize that fact and act quickly to remove the remaining travel restrictions.”
Overall, coronavirus infection figures remain relatively low across the UAE. The country has been aggressive in inoculating its population of more than nine million people against Covid-19, most of whom are foreign residents and all of whom have been able to receive the vaccine free of charge.
While masks in public spaces are still required in Dubai, life in the city-state can otherwise feel unhindered by the pandemic. Recently, Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic stepped onto the tennis court to compete in the Dubai Duty-Free Tennis Championship, his first tournament since being ejected from Australia and missing the year’s first Grand Slam event over his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19.