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Dubai is the third city to have a tour operator snapped up by Big Bus, after San Francisco and Singapore.

Big Bus Tours has acquired activities firm Tour Dubai as the company continues to expand outside of its core business. Big Bus Tours has around 550 buses in 26 destinations around the world, but in recent years, has been increasingly focused on the wider activities industry.

Tour Dubai will join Tower Tours, a sightseeing excursion operator in San Francisco, and Singapore Duck Tours as part of the Big Bus Tours’ wider portfolio. Tour Dubai has been around since 1989 and is one of the emirate’s largest tour operators. It specializes in desert safaris and dhow cruises.

The acquisition comes at a time where Dubai’s tourism sector continues to grow. The emirate is one of the few global cities to have tourism numbers ahead of 2019 — around 17.15 million visitors in 2023. The latest data for 2024 shows Dubai had around 6.8 million visitors up to April, 800,000 more than the same time last year.

It will also scale up Dubai’s more affordable tourism activities. The city has long been seen as a luxury travel destination — an image officials are trying to change. Up to April this year, the average hotel room cost $170 in the city.

Big Bus Tours was created in 2011 from the merger of London-based The Big Bus Company and Paris’s Les Cars Rouges. Both businesses can trace their origins back to the early 1990s. It claims to be the largest operator of open-top sightseeing bus tours in the world.

Private equity firm Exponent bought the enlarged company in 2015, and it has steadily added cities across the world and now operates in 26 destinations, handling six million tourists every year. Theme park operator Merlin Entertainments in 2016 took a 15 percent stake in the firm.


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Tags: acquisitions, Tourism news, travel news

Photo credit: Tourists taking photos during a bus tour in Dubai. Big Bus Tours

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