Dubai has scrapped its 30% tax on alcohol for a one-year trial period – from January 1 2023 – in a bid to help the Emirate become even more attractive to travellers.

As part of its ongoing strategy to attract a growing number of visitors, the government has suspended its tax of 30% on alcohol. This will be trialled for a year.

Experts say that the move is expected to further boost the appeal of Dubai to tourists and expatriate residents.

The measure also coincides with the annual Dubai Shopping Festival, which takes place between now January 29 2023 across its famous malls. The Festival celebrates its 28th anniversary this year with discounts ranging from 25% to 75% at some outlets.

In addition, according to media reports, travellers will no longer be required to pay for a licence to purchase alcoholic beverages. So far, there has been no official confirmation of this from local authorities.

Over the years, Dubai has been praised as the Gulf destination with the most liberal way of life, a strong element to its appeal as a global tourist destination. The tax removal would help the Emirate keeping its edge over its main competitors in the Gulf area. And also pleases many travellers and expats by lowering the cost of living in a destination where cost of living increased dramatically in recent years.

Dubai continued its strong recovery in international visitors in 2022, confirming that the tourism sector remains a key pillar of its economy.

By the end of June last year, the country had already welcomed one million more international travellers than it did over the whole of 2021. It welcomed 712 million travellers between January and June 2022 compared to 6.02 million over the whole 12-month period in 2021. By the end of November, total international overnight visitors to Dubai reached 12.82 million, down 15% from 2019.

Some inbound markets are already showing higher numbers than in 2019. Kazakhstan leads the growth with total arrivals up by 57% compared to 2019. That is followed by Oman (up 29%), Iran (up 15%), the Netherlands (+10%) and Russia (+4%). Arrivals from France, India and Canada recorded moderate declines compared to 2019, down by 4%, 7% and 8% respectively. Countries from the Gulf area (GCC) generated the highest percentage of travellers (21%) followed by Western Europe (20%) and South Asia (17%).

India is Dubai’s largest source market with 1.64 million travellers, followed by Oman (1.22 million) and Saudi Arabia (1.12 million). By December, the UK is likely to be the only country in Europe generating over a million arrivals to the Emirate.

Despite two years of Covid and tourism interruption, Dubai’s accommodation market reached a new record in November 2022. The Emirate now offers 794 establishments (up 8% compared to 2019) with a total of 145,000 rooms (up 17% compared to 2019). The average occupancy stood at 73%, close to the number achieved in November 2019 (75%).

The Mall of the Emirates (Photo: Jason Mrachina/Flickr)

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