Veteran tour operator

Since its launch over a decade ago, Net Tours has grown to become a major player in the UAE market
Budoor: goals achieved

Net Tours is one of the leading destination management companies in Dubai, UAE. TTN's Jonna Simon spoke to its chairman A Hakim Al Budoor and found out more about the company's operations and goals:

Q How has Net Tours grown and developed over the years?

A: The company began operations in 1989 and we started with the European market and especially in Scandinavia.

We have now expanded into Japan and South Africa as well as to the Far East region particularly in Thailand and Hong Kong.

We have enjoyed an annual growth of between 15 to 18 per cent. During the first year, Net Tours brought 2,000 visitors to Dubai and today the annual number is around 30,000.

How many 4-wheel drive vehicles, buses and cars do you operate and how many drivers and guides work with Net Tours?

We have more than 50 vehicles in the fleet, of which 30 are 4-wheel drives as well as 50-seater luxury buses, saloon cars and city buses.

And we employ more than 130 staff in total, but that includes office employees as well.

All guides and drivers wear the Net Tours uniform.

Why did you start Net Tours?

I am a businessman and I like to start new businesses when I can see there is a future for them. This was the time when the Dubai government began promoting Dubai as a tourist destination and I decided to become part of this new venture.

I was previously in the construction business for eight years. When I saw the tourism industry being initiated by the government, I switched completely from construction to tourism. I believe in the tourism industry. I used to do a lot of travelling with my family, before I entered the business world.

I sincerely believe that Dubai and the UAE, not to mention the entire Gulf region, have a lot to offer visitors, particularly during the winter, when it is cold in Europe and elsewhere in the world.

In 1989 you must have set yourself and the company some goals to be reached. Do you feel you have achieved these goals?

Yes, I can honestly say that most of the goals have been attained.

Does Net Tours have plans for further development in the near future?

We have recently opened a branch office in Muscat and we have operated an office in Abu Dhabi for the last eight years.

We have plans to extend our reach further in the Gulf, but so far only with the mentioned two branch offices. We have a strong market share in Abu Dhabi, as our operation there is doing very well.

For several years we have been combining tours in the UAE with trips to Oman. We have noticed there is now more demand for tours to Oman, which is a large and beautiful country. With the new visa rules at the border, it will be much easier to facilitate travel to Oman.

We have very experienced staff in our Muscat office and the requisite vehicles, so we are ready to tackle Oman, but it will take a little time.

Does the future of tourism in Dubai look good?

Absolutely. Dubai is very supportive to the tourism sector and I see various combinations of tourism - incentives, conferences, leisure, business, the cruise sector and exhibitions - developing further in the future.

We are going to establish a separate division called Net Cruises, which will handle cruise liners and everything to do with the sea. At present we are handling this sector within the main division of Net Tours, but with the new DTCM cruise terminal, I have decided to create a separate division to handle this segment of tourism.

How about competition? Is it stiff? Or are you not worried?

There is competition in Dubai, but that is healthy. I am not really worried, as Net Tours is well positioned. We have excellent connections in Germany and Scandinavia, other tour companies have specialised in the markets of France, Switzerland, UK or the CIS states.

In 1991, we received an award from the World Travel Market in London for the Best Travel Agency in the Middle East. Although that is a long time ago, I believe our 'formula' is still the same and working well.

A few personal questions. Are you involved in other business ventures in Dubai?

Yes, I am involved in real estate and some other business sectors.

Do you have any hobbies or sports interests?

My hobby is exercising, I go to the gym frequently.

Where do you like to spend your vacations?

I have travelled a lot in the US and the Far East, but nowadays I prefer to go Europe. I have a house in France, close to the Swiss border and I go there regularly.

Net Tours services cover visa arrangements, meet - and - greet assistance, hotel bookings, airlines ticketing, half and full day tours, dhow cruises (own dhows), desert safaris and overnight safaris, intra-Gulf tours, sand skiing, incentives, roundtrips, transfers and car rentals.

The company provides tailor-made packages for groups and individual travellers and has established business partners in the Gulf region and Yemen.

Net Tours is the official groundhandling company for the forthcoming Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2001, which will be held in Dubai, UAE.