DUBAI, Sept. 5 (Xinhua) -- The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been successfully wooing tourists from China since it relaxed visa regulations for Chinese visitors. But the politically stable Gulf state still lacks various leisure sites and events to achieve more.
Since China and the UAE eased bilateral visa regulations in 2009, the number of annual Chinese travelers pouring into the Gulf state nearly doubled to over 300,000. Although an increasing number of hotels adapted to the new wave by hiring Chinese- speaking tour operators and hospitality professionals from both China and the UAE, the Gulf state still needs to invest in building more attractions to lure Chinese guests to stay for a longer period of time.
WHEN "SHOP TILL YOU DROP IN NOT" IS NOT ENOUGH
"The average length of stay in general of tourists who visit the UAE, the fastest growing tourism hotspot in the Middle East, is just four days," said Robert Nicholas, founder and CEO of Dubai- based publishing group NPI Media and publisher of Mandarin- language magazine Concierge.
"So, yes," the British publishing veteran who has been living in the UAE for 27 years said, "we still see a lot of tourism potential for the UAE which has mostly the image as destination for shopping and beach hotels."
Earlier in the week on Monday, NPI Media and its business partner i2i Group China co-organized the second two-day Chinese Visitor Summit in Abu Dhabi, a conference and networking event which brought together 75 top tier Chinese travel buyers with budgets exceeding five million U.S. dollars.
Zhao Dan, assistant director of sales for Asia at Alpha Tours in Dubai, agreed that the UAE's attractions could be easily covered within a week. Popular hotspots for China tourists in Dubai are the seven-star hotel Burj Al Arab, the highest tower of the world Burj Khalifa, the beaches, shopping malls and desert safari tours, Zhao told Xinhua.
More leisure parks, sports facilities and wellness resorts will be ideal catalysts in order to unlock the potential for more Chinese visitors to stay longer, said Zhao.
But Dubai's neighbor emirate of Abu Dhabi, capital of the UAE, is likewise picking up in attracting travelers from China. Miranda Rundquist, manager of group sales of the luxury hotel Fairmont Bab El-Bahr in Abu Dhabi, said "the trend is surely upward and we specialized in the affluent business travelers from China who come for business and big trade fairs in the UAE capital."
Kelvin Zhao, sales and marketing assistant at the recently opened Rosewood Abu Dhabi hotel, said wellness and luxury were on the top agenda of some Chinese guests. "The time at the hotel must be more than a stay, my compatriots expect an event. I think ongoing marketing efforts which show the unique style of UAE luxury combined with the growing choice of excursions in the Gulf state is key to reach out to Chinese tourists," he said.
Earlier in the year, Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al- Maktoum said he wants to double the number of tourists from 10 million in 2012 to 20 million in 2020, and one key source market shall be China in this strategy.