Dubai travel roars back, surpassing 2019 passenger numbers

Dubai International Airport (DXB), the world's busiest airport for international travel, has made a significant recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2023, DXB handled 86.9 million passengers, surpassing the pre-pandemic levels of 86.3 million passengers in 2019. This achievement indicates the strength of the rebound in international travel since the pandemic. The rise in passenger traffic at DXB has been largely driven by traffic to and from destinations in India, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, and Pakistan¹. Despite the internationally condemned invasion of Ukraine by Russia in February 2022, flights to Russian cities have continued, making Russia a major market for the airport.


Dubai was one of the first cities to reopen its doors and welcome back inbound tourism following the pandemic. As a major international destination for both business and leisure travel, Dubai has seen its economy significantly boosted by visitors entering the country. The success of Dubai Airport is often seen as a barometer for the wider economy of the city-state as a whole. In early February 2024, Dubai announced its best-ever tourism numbers, saying it saw 17.15 million international overnight visitors in 2023¹. Average hotel occupancy stood at around 77% while real estate values across the city are currently riding at record highs¹. The economic contribution to the city of having more and more visitors is evident for everyone to see.

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The airport has estimated it will serve 88.8 million passengers in 2024, even closer to matching its best-ever year. However, the ever-increasing number of passengers passing through its terminals exerts additional pressure on the wider airport infrastructure which in 2023 saw the highest number of movements in its history at just over 416,000. While the airport has been trying to encourage airlines to switch some services to Dubai’s other airport, Al Maktoum International Airport (DWC) at Dubai World Central, Dubai International Airport’s priorities remain the increase in parking stands alongside the introduction of new passenger handling technologies to improve the efficiency of the airport’s terminals themselves.

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This exceptional performance reflects Dubai's commitment to maintaining its lead. The city continues to grow rapidly as a global aviation hub and the world’s preferred gateway for international travelers. The final 3 months of 2023 saw significant increases in passenger throughput at Dubai Airport, with COP28 and the year-end events lending a hand. In 2022, the airport had clocked in 66 million in passenger traffic. As it gave updates on quarterly numbers this year, Dubai Airport had regularly updated its own forecasts on what 2023's eventual numbers would be. The final tally shows that the forecast was spot on. Early projections show that DXB is expected to have 88.8 million guests in 2024, putting the 'hub within striking distance of the all-time high record set in 2018 at 89.1 million. “Dubai is setting new benchmarks in passenger experience with excellence levels and innovative technologies that constantly redefine airport services," said Sheikh Ahmed. The 2023 performance beats the 2019 passenger volumes, which was the year before Covid came about. Over the medium term, Dubai Airport is setting its sights well beyond that, at 100 million and more, as its domestic airlines add to their fleets, including deploying the massive Airbus A380s on high-traffic routes.

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