Dubai has begun efforts to serenade wealthy foreign investors, especially the Chinese, by offering sweeteners such as long-term visas and retirement options, amid a slump in property prices.

Dubai is the second largest city in the United Arab Emirates and has recently approved visas valid for between five and ten years. Visas for expatriate workers and professionals are usually valid for up to three years. Additionally, the UAE announced last year that it was planning to issue five-year retirement visas to non-Emiratis aged 55 and older.

The Dubai Land Department, which is responsible for promoting land investment in the city, has been ramping up efforts to lure more Chinese investments into buying property, targeting at least 1 billion dirhams in investments this year.

“Chinese investors represent a growing sector of the market … with many of the major developers currently targeting this sector through sales events in China and relationships with Chinese brokers”, said Craig Plumb, head of research, Middle East and North Africa at JLL.

The measures coupled with the UAE’s zero-tax regime are being touted to attract wealthy investors into buying property in Dubai.

Maria Morris, partner and head of residential at Knight Frank Middle East and North Africa, said that after nearly three years of a softening property market because of an influx of inventory, there are early signs of a recovery.

“This trend of higher demand could continue to strengthen given the recent approval of a range of legislation to ease visa and foreign business ownership by the UAE cabinet”, Morris said, noting that this move is very likely to drive demand for Dubai property.

According to data from Knight Frank, Dubai is the world’s least expensive ultra-prime market, with prices averaging US$625 per square foot. This is only 15 per cent of the average price of US$4,251 per sq ft in Hong Kong.