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Russian visitors ‘strong’ despite Ukraine invasion

Downtown Dubai
Downtown Dubai. Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe accounted for 15 percent of overnight visitors to the emirate in January and February

The Russian tourist market has remained “strong” for Dubai, as the United Arab Emirates remains neutral in the global backlash against President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine in February.

“For us Russia, Ukraine, CIS in general, are very important,” Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, told delegates during the opening session of the first day of the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai.

“Russia has always been in the top 10 markets for sure, in the top six I would say. Even now, when we look at the Q1 latest [visitor data] for 2022 they are still within those numbers… They are still strong,” he added.

When asked if the global backlash and sanctions against Russia had impacted Russian tourists looking to travel abroad to Dubai, the emirate’s tourism chief said the answer was an emphatic “no”.

“In terms of numbers, we are still a very comfortable destination for those markets,” he said. 

According to the latest data from the Dubai Tourism website, the emirate welcomed 2.19 million overnight visitors in January and February, with the highest number of international guests coming from Saudi Arabia, with 194,000. Russia, CIS and Eastern Europe accounted for 15 percent of all overnight visitors over the period.

While Saudi Arabia was the top source market, followed by India and the United Kingdom, Russia placed fourth with 137,000 overnight visitors in the first two months of this year, up 142 percent year-on-year. Ukraine saw 28,000 tourists visiting Dubai over the same period, placing it 16th on the list and an increase of 44 percent year-on-year.

While many countries, such as the US, UK, Australia, Canada and other allies, have imposed financial restrictions on Moscow, including excluding it from the SWIFT banking system and the targeting of Russian oligarchs finances, the UAE has not done so and remains neutral in the conflict.

AGBI reported this week that wealthy Russians are snapping up luxury homes in Dubai in a bid to sidestep these sanctions. Real estate brokerage Betterhomes reported in April that property purchases in Dubai by Russians surged 67 percent in the first quarter of 2022.