Dubai has stepped up its game to grab more Chinese visitors by partnering with major tourism and financial services companies while adding more Chinese employees to the roster at Dubai Duty Free.

The emirate had more than 14.2 million overnight visitors last year, according to Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). Chinese tourists only made up 450,000 of that figure, or about 3 per cent of Dubai’s total tourists.

To help attract more, Dubai Duty Free will partner with Ctrip, one of China’s largest online travel agencies with 141 million active members. The agency members will get a 7 per cent discount while shopping at Dubai Duty Free from January to June, subject to terms and conditions.

Dubai Duty Free also made plans with UnionPay International to expand its partnership. The bank card service provider, which is similar to companies such as MasterCard and Visa, was created by China’s central bank, but about 85 per cent of state-owned banks have a stake in the provider.

While Chinese tourists do not make up a large amount of overall tourists, they accounted for 12 per cent of duty free sales last year. Colm McLoughlin, executive vice chairman and chief executive of Dubai Duty Free, said that this growing number was the reason behind making the duty free website available in Mandarin for the first time last week.

“Both the number of Chinese travellers flying through Dubai International and those shopping at Dubai Duty Free has increased substantially in recent times,” he said. “And we believe that by teaming up with Ctrip and UnionPay we can interact directly with travellers before they fly and help them make informed purchasing decisions at Dubai Duty Free.”

Chinese nationals represent 10 per cent of Dubai Duty Free’s total workforce at 591 employees. That figure will increase to nearly 700 workers over the next year according to Nic Bruwer, the executive vice president of commercial at Dubai Duty Free.