Tourism leaders have called for a combined destination marketing drive for the Middle East, claiming the move is essential to drive ambitious targets for inbound visitors.
Making a call for a destination Arabia was Gulf Air president and CEO James Hogan, who said an umbrella campaign was needed to justify huge government and airline investment in the region. Hogan was speaking at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai.
He said: “If you take the Middle East as a whole, it could be argued that there is an immaturity and mis-match of destination brands, and an overall perception that safety is an issue. But Corporate Arabia does have a structure in place, and the hospitality values, to push out a unified destination brand message and a model to manage some negative news coverage.”
Hogan agreed that some markets were more advanced than others but pointed out that most capital cities in the region have a good range of four- and five-star hotels in place. “We should move now with the embrace of an umbrella marketing campaign: you can’t wait until everyone else catches up.”
He predicted that any co-ordinated destination marketing campaign was likely to be driven by the Arab Air Carriers Organisation, and said that Gulf Air would support the move.
The debate over an umbrella destination campaign was raised on the first day of the conference by Susan Furness, managing director of corporate communications consultancy Strategic Solutions. Furness said: “The time is right for Arabia to follow the example of cluster destinations like the Caribbean, where a co-ordinated marketing drive, funded by the private sector in the first instance, has paid huge dividends for the growth of the industry.
“Even though different countries in the region are at varying stages of their evolution in terms of tourism product offering, we can now brand the Arabian hospitality for which we are famous, and use it to drive sustained growth.
“The combination of government and private sector investment, through event initiatives such as the Dubai Shopping Festival and the Bahrain Grand Prix, as well as tourism moves in Qatar, Abu Dhabi and Oman, has seen a growing appetite for the Arabian tourism product around the world.”
Salem bin Dasmal, CEO of Dubailand, said that Dubai’s success on the international stage would help the cause. He said: “A destination drive for the region would certainly increase the size of the pie for everyone. Dubai’s involvement would add credibility and would attract international awareness.”
David Clifton, managing director, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia, for Interval International has just opened a second Middle East office in Dubai, to capitalise on the expected growth of vacation ownership in the region.
He said: “An integrated Brand Arabia marketing push makes all the sense in the world, and has already been seen to great effect with the Red Sea. An umbrella campaign will allow target markets in Europe and Asia to focus on the positive attributes of the region.
“In more tangible terms, a unified positioning will help increase the average length of stay – in Dubai, this is around the 2.7 night mark – which is essential to continue the strengthening of the tourism industry. We should be seeing average stays move closer to the seven day mark, which is one of the results of opening up the timeshare industry.”