Jonna Simon speaks to Iain Andrew, divisional senior vice president of Dnata Travel Services.
How has business been over the past year?
2007 has been an excellent year for Dnata Travel Services with a total growth of 41 per cent compared to the previous year. This growth was contributed to by all sectors of the company.
Dnata Travel Services continued to expand across the region with the opening of new outlets in Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia, Sharjah Airport and Le Meridien Al Garhoud as well as a joint venture in Qatar.
The rebranding of Dnata Agencies as Dnata Travel Services took place to recognise and highlight the increased range of services offered.
Any expansion plans?
The focus for Dnata Travel Services is always to offer total travel solutions to customers through the quality delivery of top class products and services. The objective is to be the best, not necessarily the biggest, thus we are not interested in expansion simply for the sake of it.
However, we are constantly on the lookout for opportunities in markets, where we believe our skills and expertise can be effectively applied and if there is a strong business case for us to expand, we will do so. It is vital that we are investigating the opportunities for Dnata Travel Services in Asia, where the brand already has a high profile.
In terms of countries in which we already have a presence, we are looking to expand our customers reach by opening outlets in some of the new developments being rolled out. The success of the Dnata outlets in Mall of the Emirates and Deira City Centre means that we are keen to consider more developments of this nature; our primary objective remains to retain our status as the leading travel management company in the Middle East by offering our customers top-class products and services.
How do you cope with the shortage of rooms in the UAE?
The shortage of rooms across the UAE is an issue, which affects everyone operating in the corporate or leisure travel sector in the region. Back in 1990, around 600,000 visitors took bed space in Dubai. Last year, that figure was 5.44 million and rising. However, with a number of new developments due to come on stream soon, the situation will no doubt improve significantly.
Do you have a shortage of personnel?
Dnata is committed to recruiting, training and retains the best staff available and because of this commitment; we are regarded as a preferred employer in the region. That said, due to the rapid expansion of the business, it is a challenge to recruit sufficient people of the correct calibre.
How much of your business is carried out on the internet?
The internet is increasingly used as a tool for researching destinations as well as booking travel and in order to meet the demand, we have transformed www.dnata.com into a dynamic e-commerce website.
The new site provides an online transactional facility to customers while showcasing products and services. The booking engine allows customers to search and book airline seats, hotel rooms, car rentals, travel insurance, destination activities as well as request custom-made holiday packages.
It also allows online payments for purchasing hotels, car rentals and travel insurance. However many of our customers prefer to use the internet solely as an information and research aid rather than to make bookings and the personal face-to-face experience of The Holiday Lounge makes it a popular destination for our customers to begin their Dnata Travel experience.
The Holiday Lounge integrates key travel services in our location including: A library for travellers to research their destinations and purchase travel books, travel insurance services, convenient access to currency exchange and ATMs, professional travel advisors and a play area for children equipped with toys and the latest electronic games to keep them entertained, while parents make travel plans.
The Holiday Lounge has proven to be so popular with our clients that we are planning to open three more in the first quarter of this year – two in Dubai and one in Kuwait.
What are the biggest problems facing you this year?
We have developed a business model, which has proven to be extremely successful in 2007 and we look forward to continuing this success throughout 2008. Obviously, as with any company that is growing rapidly, there will be commercial challenges ahead, but we have an excellent team in place that will be more than capable of meeting those challenges.
TTN is the most established trade publication in the Middle East distributed on a controlled circulation basis to members of the travel and tourism industry.
Published monthly by Al Hilal Publishing and Marketing Group, the region’s foremost trade publisher, TTN is aimed at professionals in the industry, from travel agents to airline and hotel personnel.
TTN provides in-depth and extensive coverage of relevant issues in the Middle East and North Africa as well as in other parts of the world. Travel related news, analysis, and new appointments together with information on up-coming exhibitions, marketing and promotional campaigns are presented in an innovative and striking colour tabloid.
Every issue also contains a collation of international and regional news and topical features of interest to readers.