Improved facilities and a better traveler experience helped Dubai International Airport rank as the top airport for five years in a row, with China among its fastest-growing source markets.
"2018 was yet another remarkable year for Dubai Airports," said Paul Griffiths, CEO of Dubai Airports, the airport authority that owns and manages the airport, also known as DXB, in his annual report. The airport also celebrated serving 1 billion passengers over the last 58 years.
With annual traffic for 2018 rising 1 percent to 89.1 million, the airport announced on Jan 28 that it remains the world's busiest airport for the fifth year running, in terms of international passengers. It first received the accolade in 2014, when it surpassed London's Heathrow Airport.
The DXB, the hub for Emirates airline and budget airline FlyDubai, has been continuously upgrading its facilities to serve international travelers and to keep up with digital trends. In the past 11 years, Dubai Airports has invested almost $12 billion to open new facilities at DXB and Dubai World Central, Dubai's second airport, which opened in 2013.
Griffiths said Dubai Airports will continue to engage with its customers in the digital space and it ranks first among international peers on social media platforms Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Meanwhile, passenger wait times were reduced by 28 percent in 2018, due to DXB's advanced operations center and smart gates to ease the process.
"The airport has been at the forefront of innovations to make the passenger experience as seamless as possible," said Geoffrey Thomas, editor-in-chief of review website Airline Ratings.
Speaking to China Daily, Thomas said that DXB's top ranking demonstrates how the Dubai government is successfully developing the city as a tourism and trade center for the Middle East and Asia. He cited the example of Emirates, which is expanding and linking the world with its large fleet of aircraft.
With the world's largest fleet of Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 airliners, Emirates serves 155 airports in 83 countries, according to the Emirates Group Annual Report 2017-18.
India is DXB's top destination country by passenger volume, followed by Saudi Arabia and the United Kingdom. China, with a growth rate of 6 percent, is among the fast-growing market segments together with Russia. "Indian nationals do a lot of trade in Dubai," said Thomas, adding that the country is also a big source of talent for the global labor market and many choose to fly from Dubai to other countries.
Dubai, as the largest city in the United Arab Emirates, is also a key destination for business meetings for travelers from countries including Saudi Arabia, the UK and China, said Thomas.
The UAE is the 11th most popular destination for Chinese travelers during this year's weeklong Spring Festival holiday, an increase of seven places from last year, according to a report by Chinese online travel agency Ctrip.
In 2018, China ranked as the fourth-largest tourist source market to Dubai, according to Visit Dubai, a website managed by Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
"With the opening-up of the visa policy, Chinese are more inclined to go to Dubai for shopping and sightseeing," said Wendy Min, senior international public relations manager at Ctrip, in a written reply to China Daily.
Dubai started to implement a visa-on-arrival policy for the Chinese in late 2016, and duty-free shops in Dubai now accept Chinese yuan.
In the first half of 2018, the number of individual Chinese travelers to Dubai recorded year-on-year growth of 40 percent, according to Ctrip.
Min said the UAE is also a safe destination and ranks among Ctrip's list of top 10 safest countries to travel for Chinese tourists, together with countries like Japan, Singapore, Sweden and Austria.
"Dubai airports will continue to grow. With the new airport, they will be able to support more aircraft," said Thomas at Airline Ratings.