No Russians? No problem. The Chinese are here

The numbers of Chinese tourists coming to the UAE are likely to see exponential growth in the years to come, according to a new report.

Even while visitors from Russia ? an important source market for the UAE ? has seen a significant drop recently with the rouble depreciating in value, the Emirates could benefit from improved Chinese visitor numbers going forward, a report from Oxford Economics and InterContinental Hotels Group shows.

Latest data from Dubai?s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing showed hotel guest numbers from China experiencing a 24.9 percent growth, with 344,329 hotel guests checking in, compared with 275,675 in 2013. Oxford Economics ICH expects this number to witness a staggering 98 percent growth by 2023 to hit 545,000.

Chinese visitors are of a higher value to the region as they have a tendency for longer-than-average length of stays says the report. They are also big spenders, which is reflected in the fact that they contributed 13 percent to Dubai Duty Free revenue in 2014, countering a decline in Russian spending, despite making up only five percent of Dubai?s total throughput, Colm McLoughlin, Executive Vice-Chairman of Dubai Duty Free, told?Bloomberg news.

According to Oxford Economics ICH, the decade between 2013 and 2023 will see Chinese spends in the UAE rise 60 percent from 423.76? million to 738.74?m. And while the research highlights that Dubai is currently the most popular destination in the Middle East and Africa among Chinese tourists, the UAE?s capital, Abu Dhabi, is also expected to witness a 300 percent increase in arrivals by 2023.

?With the shift towards leisure travel, coupled with the 90m Chinese households able to take long-haul trips by 2023, the country?s growing importance in the global travel market cannot be underestimated,? says Richard Solomons, Chief Executive Officer at IHG.

Coupled with increased family income and demand for long-haul travel, what?s also driving this growth is a rising Muslim population in China who are increasingly looking at the Middle East as a destination of choice. Quoting figures from Pew Research, the Oxford Economics ICH report highlights that China?s Muslim population has seen a 38.4 percent increase in the last two decades, making up 1.8 percent of the nation?s total population.

This expansion has resulted in not only Dubai and Abu Dhabi, but also Hajj destinations in Saudi Arabia, benefiting from increased Chinese visitors. Travel from China to Mecca and Medina is forecast to rise by 50 percent by 2023 as China?s Muslim population reaches 2.1 percent of its total population by 2030, representing a 28 percent increase over 2010 levels.

In addition, leisure travel will also benefit from this demographic. ?Over the next decade, growth in arrivals to and nights spent in Dubai and Abu Dhabi is expected to top that of other major city destinations throughout the world, such as London and Paris in Europe and Sydney in the Asia Pacific region,? the Oxford Economics ICH report estimates.