Could Dubai’s China Charm Offensive Fuel A Middle East Tourism Boom?

Nearly one million Chinese tourists visited Dubai in 2019.

The global tourism industry has kept a close eye on China since Beijing’s decision in December 2022 to scrap its strict “zero-COVID” policy, looking to see whether big-spending Chinese tourists would soon resume their globetrotting ways. Yet a pre-pandemic resurgence has so far failed to materialize in destinations like Europe or North America, with some experts forecasting long-distance outbound tourism will remain muted until spring at the earliest.

This does not necessarily indicate growing apathy towards Chinese tourist-shopper hotspots like Paris or Milan. As Hamburg-based Wolfgang Arlt, managing director of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI), opined, would-be tourists face obstacles despite the relaxation of travel restrictions in China, with COVID infection rates remaining stubbornly high.

Due in no small part to currency depreciation against the dollar, long-haul travel for luxury shopping at lower prices than in China — a key pre-pandemic Chinese tourism motivator — is expected to remain relatively modest in markets like western Europe. As Luca Solca, senior research analyst at Bernstein, recently noted, “The return of the Chinese to Europe, where [luxury retail] prices are lower, will take some time,” adding that he expects a broader Chinese long-haul travel recovery next year.

Dubai Tourism’s China effort more recently included a “Dubai, Long Time No See” trade seminar in Shanghai, in an effort to attract travel agencies as well as airline partners. After its launch in Shanghai, the seminar series continues onward in Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing, Shenzhen, and Qingdao, according to Shine.

Travel to faraway locales has also been impacted by economic concerns and rising costs of living, with a growing number of young Chinese holidaymakers opting for domestic staycations and cheaper travel to nearby Asian countries. This is reflected in the Asia-heavy top destinations for outbound Chinese tourists, led by Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, and Singapore, according to Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

Yet Chinese citizens are still eager to travel internationally after the last three years of being unable to travel due to COVID restrictions, according to Renee Hartmann, Co-Founder of China Luxury Advisors (CLA) and co-author of the new book Next Generation Retail: How to Use New Technology to Innovate for the Future. As Hartmann notes, “Most people’s first international trip has been to top destinations in Asia such as Thailand, the Maldives and Singapore, but many are seeking to venture further to destinations such as the Middle East, Europe and North America.” Continue to read the full article here