Dubai tourist arrivals grew 5 percent in the first half of this year over the year-ago period as the emirate - reeling from a global economic slump - managed to lure visitors with an aggressive marketing campaign, official data showed on Tuesday.
The emirate's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said Dubai received 3.85 million tourists in the first six months of 2009 as it teamed up with city hotels.
The campaign has seen hotels slash their rates to fill up rooms, attract people from key source markets, which are suffering from the impact of global recession.
"The DTCM's promotions and marketing initiatives, taken up in cooperation with the hoteliers and tourism industry professionals, contributed enormously in achieving the high growth and keeping the tourism economy robust," Khalid bin Sulayem, DTCM's director-general, said in a statement.
While the total number of guests staying at Dubai hotels has showed a moderate increase, occupancy levels during the first half fell 16 percent to 69.9 per cent from 87.2 between January and June last year, according to a survey last month by travel research firm STR Global.
Revenue per available room (Revpar), a key indicator of hotel performance, fell more than a third - 36 percent - as room rates were slashed.
DTCM's figures show occupancy levels are getting better, with beach hotels reporting 90 percent occupancy in August.
Visitors from the GCC, a region less affected by the global economic turmoil, are also making up for a fall in arrivals from key markets such as Britain, Germany and Russia.
DTCM said Gulf visitors staying at Dubai hotels in July, when outbound travel peaks in the region, numbered about 64,000, an increase of 35 percent on the same month last year.
Achieving high occupancy levels of the past is likely to get difficult if arrivals do not grow strongly while hotels under construction get completed, adding thousands of new rooms.
"There is a pipeline of hotels that must open and this is going to increase competition," said Guy Wilkinson of hospitality consultancy. He said room rates are already under pressure, especially for luxury hotels.
Dubai at present has 58,147 hotel rooms, a 17 percent increase over the first half of last year, according to DTCM.
Before the economic downturn hit the emirate's booming real estate sector, Dubai had launched tens of billions of dollars of projects to develop infrastructure to support its aim of attracting 15 million tourists a year by 2015.