Dubai has seen a surge in investors, shoppers and tourists from China this year, analysts and industry experts across a number of sectors have reported.
Dubai was one of the major real estate markets affected by the global recession, with around half of projects put on hold and prices dipping up by up to 60 percent in some areas.
While investment levels have not fully recovered, China is one of the regions where investors are beginning to show interest again, said Matthew Green, head of research and consultancy at real estate agency CB Richard Ellis’s Dubai office.
“There is definitely [investment] coming back into the residential at the high end, but to be honest there is a lot of interest from Chinese investors,” said Green.
“The number of transactions is still down, but there has been a pickup in overall value, which is a positive sign,” he added.
Chinese investors have also shown interest in Dubai’s commercial sector, according to Nick Maclean, managing director of CBRE Middle East.
“There are some significant companies at the moment… Hong Kong companies representing Chinese companies,” he added.
Unlike Western firms from the UK and US, which prefer to lease office space, Chinese firms are bucking the trend and are interested in buying whole floors or buildings.
“They take a slightly different view to Western companies in that they take a longer view, they are here long-term and they are, to buck the trend, in the buyer market,” Maclean added.
One reason Chinese firms are coming to Dubai is to set up a hub in order to access the African markets, said Nasser Saidi, chief economist of the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) said this week.
In the first quarter of the year, China exported AED10.68bn worth of goods to Dubai and was the second biggest export partner in the first three months of 2011.
“The Chinese side is willing to further expand areas for its cooperation with the UAE and enhance the two countries’ cooperation in such fields as energy sources, finance, telecommunications, railway and project contracting,” He Guoqiang, a senior Chinese official, said this month during visit to Dubai for a meeting with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai’s ruler.
Chinese tourists and shoppers are also opting to visit the emirate’s shopping malls and hotels.
Maclean reported Chinese consumers have been highly visible in the retail sector and are one of the strongest buyer groups in Dubai this summer.
“Chinese buyers within the retail sector dominated the first quarter results. They were among the top three or four for the first time. Some retailers have said to us they have replaced the Russian, who were previously very high. The Russian were the big spenders and now the Chinese seem to be the big spenders,” said Maclean.
With increased flights between Dubai and China, with Emirates operating regular scheduled routes China Eastern Airlines launching services earlier this year, the number of Chinese tourists in Dubai hotels has surged.
Dubai’s Jumeirah Group, which opened its first hotel in China in March this year, has identified Chinese travelers as the fastest growing group of guests in its hotels.
Chinese customers now represent about five percent of guests, up from less than one percent three years ago, Gerard Lawless, chairman of Jumeirah Group, said.
“On February 14 [Chinese New Year] we were looking at almost 80 percent occupancy [of Chinese guests] within Burj al Arab,” he added.
The newly opened Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, which is operated by Movenpick Hotels & Resorts, has also seen a surprisingly high number of Chinese guests booking into the hotel during the quiet month of Ramadan.
A spokesman for the hotel said Chinese guests had booked nearly 1,000 nights during August.