Dubai: The UAE is strengthening its position as one of the most popular destinations in the world, with flight bookings to the country increasing significantly in recent years.

More than 12 million international tourists were expected to have visited the country during 2014. By 2024, the number of tourists is forecast to reach 39 million, generating visitor spending of a little over Dh105 billion.

But where do these tourists come from and why do they choose to travel to UAE?

Expedia.com, an online travel site, has recently examined its own data between 2013 and 2014 and found that there are more people from London than anywhere else in the world who come to Dubai to enjoy the beaches and architecture, and do business here.

London emerged as the number one flight origin for guests traveling to Dubai, followed by Manchester, Paris, Kuwait City and Milan in the top five.

“The UAE has traditionally been a favorite destination with British business people as well as holidaymakers seeking guaranteed sunshine,” said Barhoumeh.

Bookings for Canada to Dubai, however, registered the strongest increase at 35 per cent, while flights booked from the UK went up by 27 per cent. Flights booked from Saudi Arabia and France grew by 24 per cent.

Overall, flight bookings to Dubai increased by 25 per cent between 2013 and 2014.

“Dubai has firmly established itself as both a key tourist destination and leading hub for business travel, as demonstrated by recent year-on-year growth of nearly 25 per cent for travel to that destination,” said Eman Barhoumeh, Expedia senior editor.

Other sources had said that Dubai’s key source markets also include India, Russia, Germany and China.

Analysts said travelers are being lured by the diverse experiences the UAE has to offer. The country is home to the tallest man-made structure in the world, the biggest mall, musical fountain, sun-baked beaches and offers exotic cuisines.

According to Ali Khan, CEO of real estate portal Bayut.com, more expatriates and people traveling on business choose Dubai due to its “geo-strategic location,” state-of-the-art infrastructure, zero taxes, free zones and ease of repatriation of capital.

“People choosing Dubai as a vacation destination are lured by its weather and beaches, its luxury lifestyle, shopping experience, desert safaris and adventures, entertainment facilities like the Dubai aquarium and Ski Dubai, the unsurpassed hospitality of its service sector, awe-inspiring structures and architecture and the simultaneous, rich experience of tradition and modernism,” Ali Khan told Gulf News.

There is also a growing number of travelers wanting to explore the neighbouring emirates, including Sharjah. Expedia noted a 17 per cent increase in online searches for Sharjah airport over the past year.

The UAE’s capital is seeing an increasing influx of travelers as well. Flight bookings on Expedia into Abu Dhabi have increased by about 50 per cent from 2013 to 2014.

“Bookings to Abu Dhabi are expected to continue this growth trend as Expedia has recently seen a more than 10 per cent increase in demand for that destination,” Expedia said.

The Abu Dhabi International Airport recorded 20 million passengers last year, an increase of 20 per cent on the previous year.

source: gulfnews