Dubai expects a 20% increase in cruise passenger numbers this season as new vessels call on the city.
DCT (Dubai Cruise Tourism) expects 157 ship visits during 2016-2017 season, spanning from October through to July, which will help the emirate to inch closer to its 2020 target of 20 million tourists a year.
This season, DCT expects 600,000 cruise tourists compared with more than 500,000 a year ago.
"Through our cruise tourism strategy, we aim to bring in 1 million tourists to Dubai by 2020 and we’re heading in the right direction," said Jamal Al Falasi, the director of DCT.
Dubai will have more than 23 cruise operators, including six that will use the emirate as a base. This number goes up with the addition of one of the world’s largest operators, Norwegian Cruise Line, as well as the UK-based Thomson Cruises.
The DCT forecasts for tourists from cruises this year is a far cry from 10,000 in 1998. Part of the reason this segment is growing for the country is the introduction of multi-entry visas two years ago. This has opened the door to potential emerging markets such as China, India, Russia and South America, according to the DCT.
Packages will include a variety of options, including a 7-day trip around several regional destinations from Thomson, and even the extended 21 – or 32-day excursions provided by Norwegian.
Next year, Celestyal Cruise Lines from Greece will be the first in the region to offer a three-night/four-day itinerary for Arabian Gulf tourists, tapping the Mediterranean markets.
Dubai is looking to peg the region as a winter destination for European and Mediterranean travellers.
"Celestyal Cruise Lines choosing Dubai as its home port in the region is yet another instance of the collective approach of tourism, airlines and port authority leading to a compelling tourist proposition," Mr Al Falasi said.
"With such a broad market of visitors choosing the emirate, cruise offers travellers the chance to view the city from a different perspective".