Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE
Burj Khalifa in Dubai, UAE Reuters

Your next trip to Dubai may be noticeably more expensive now that the crown prince, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, has issued a new tourist fee that could tack as much as 20 dirham ($5.50) per room, per night, onto your hotel stay. The so-called Tourism Dirham will go into effect on March 31, and exact prices will depend on the hotel category and rating.

The sheikh's office called the tax “a minimal charge” that will be applied to “guests staying in all genres and rating of holiday accommodation,” including hotels, hotel apartments, guesthouses and holiday homes. “The move is based on global benchmarking, and funds raised will support the international promotion and marketing of the emirate and drive growth of its tourism and trade industries,” it explained in a statement. “The measure will help strengthen Dubai’s position as a leading tourist destination, bringing the emirate in line with international industry standards.”

The Tourism Durham is just the latest in a series of new fees imposed in recent years that have helped Dubai boost revenues while keeping taxes low to attract foreign investment. The office of the crown prince explained that such tourism fees are already charged in leading destinations around the world.

The increased revenue -- as much as $90 million a year by some estimates -- will help fund Dubai’s new tourism body, the Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, which Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced last month. The agency is charged with boosting inbound travel and trade to the glitzy emirate, and will set up offices in key cities around the globe in 2014 to push the Dubai brand into new markets.

“The introduction of the Tourism Dirham will support Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, helping to ensure our continued competitiveness on the global stage, which will be reflected positively on the growth of two of our economic pillars: trade and tourism,” stated Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, or DTCM.

Dubai’s ambitious growth plans went into overdrive after it was announced late last year that the emirate would host Expo 2020. Under DTCM’s “Tourism Vision for 2020,” released this week, the city outlined its plans to attract 20 million tourists by the end of the decade, almost doubling the published visitor traffic from 2012. To do so, Dubai will need to achieve a sustained 7 percent to 9 percent compound annual growth rate across leisure and business visitors and increase its current hotel room inventory from 80,000 in 2012 to between 140,000 and 160,000 by 2020.

“Bringing 20 million of the global outbound visitors to Dubai and increasing the GDP contribution from them by 2020 requires us to remain focused on increasing the competitiveness of Dubai’s tourism sector on three fronts: innovative and effective marketing to raise awareness of our depth of offering; redefining travelers’ expectations with consistent service excellence across all tourism touch points and adoption of cutting edge technologies; and pioneering multi-faceted experiences,” Almarri noted in an outline of the Tourism Vision for 2020 plan.

“Winning the right to host World Expo 2020 only escalates the scale and urgency of what remains to be accomplished,” he continued. “His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, often says every peak we reach overlooks the next. This is the recipe for success and advancement and as we look to the future, DTCM recognizes that there is no room for waiting.”