Dubai is now exporting its restaurants, cementing its position at the forefront of food business, industry experts said on Monday (May 6) at the Arabian Travel Mart (ATM).

“Earlier, we used to bring international brands here but now our brands are going international,” said Hoor Al Khaja, senior VP of international operations at Dubai Department of Economy and Tourism (DET).

“Take the example of Kinoya that opened up in Harrods, or the Maine that opened here and then moved to the UK."

According to Hoor, the popularity of Dubai as a global destination for food and gastronomy is due to the concerted effort of the government.

“Despite having over 200 nationalities here who brought their food to this city, Dubai did not have the recognition that Singapore or London did as a gastronomy capital,” Hoor said.

“But with the arrival of big names like Michelin, people have begun recognizing Dubai for its offerings.”

Hoor also added that Dubai not only offers high-end Michelin-star and experiental restaurants, it also as offers people the option whether to go to food vendors or mid-market restaurants.

She said what sets Dubai apart is how all the different cuisines in the country are authentic. “With so many different nationalities here, each person brings different their authentic food to the city,” she said. “Also, we have access to all the spices. So the dishes here are as authentic as it gets.”

Catering to tourists

DET revealed on Monday that Dubai welcomed 5.18 million international overnight visitors during the first quarter of this year, an 11% increase over tourist arrivals during the same period in 2023.

Hoor said the numbers were a result of several campaigns run by the DET over the year.

“Sustainability is one of the most important factors that influence travellers especially since Covid,” she said. “At DET, we have put in place several campaigns around this including the Sustainable Tourism Strategy where we award hotels for their low carbon footprint.”

With the Dubai Can initiative, installing water coolers across the city and the newly announced Dubai Reef project have added to the appeal of the city.

Hoor also added that tourists these days are very tech savvy. “Many tourists research the city they are traveling to very well online,” she said. “So this means we have to be very present and active on all tech channels across 40 markets.”

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