‘We are promoting Dubai as a whole’

ANITA MEHRA HOMAYOUN, director marketing and corporate communications, DCA, talks to SHAFQUAT ALI about marketing Dubai
An artist’s impression of Concourse 3

As director marketing and corporate communications Department of Civil Aviation, Dubai (DCA), Anita Mehra Homayoun has not just developed key marketing strategies and promotional campaigns for Dubai International Airport but she has played an important role in promoting Destination Dubai to a world audience.

In an exclusive interview, she talks to TTN about DCA’s plans and more. Excerpts from an interview:

TTN: These are exciting times for the Dubai International Airport, which is undergoing a multi-billion dollar extension. What are you doing to ensure that the government meets its target of attracting 15 million passengers by 2010?
Anita Mehra Homayoun: At the airport, we work very much alongside Emirates and the Dubai Tourism and Commerce Department (DTCM) in getting visitors into Dubai. Indeed, the Dubai Government has always seen the airport and the Duty Free as the first point at which to introduce people to the city.
The DCA marketing department also sponsors local sports events and overseas exhibitions and events, such as horse races in Frankfurt and Newbury. There is also a good deal of time spent trying to woo airlines to fly into Dubai with road shows and other marketing activity.
In a nutshell, we are trying to promote Dubai as a whole. We want to attract people with a better lifestyle and show them that they can do well in their business and career here and still find time for family life. That is something that many people now find impossible in other parts of the world.

What kind of planning has gone into promoting DCA to a world audience?
Since we have a small budget, over time, I have come up with initiatives where I have used the partnership of Dubai Duty Free and Emirates airlines to organise joint promotional campaigns around the world. We are regulated under the government entity and can’t get our budget increased so we’ve got to be very creative.
With regard to our television promotions, the CNN campaign called Cultural Voyage attracted a lot of attention around the world, and we followed that up with another hugely successful campaign entitled Why Dubai? on CNBC. It focused on expatriates actually living in Dubai and showed how they mix their lifestyle, business and family life.

Has the success of homegrown airline Emirates made your job of marketing the airport easier?
Most definitely. Emirates is making the world aware of Dubai. The airline only began flying in 1986 but is one of the fastest-growing and was one of the world’s most profitable last year.

Talking numbers, what is the increase in passenger movement at the Dubai International Airport this year?
Passenger movement is up 12.7 per cent – we have registered 6.02 million passengers compared with 5.34 million over the same period last year – while cargo shows 18.3 per cent growth in the first quarter of 2005. Dubai Cargo Village registered handled a total of 303,206 tonnes of freight as compared to 256,229 tonnes during the same period last year.
Aircraft movement last year registered at 46,756 movements in the first quarter of 2004 while this year it has witnessed a 12.8 per cent growth with 52,738 movements. First quarter sales at Dubai Duty Free topped Dh510 million ($141 million) representing a 20 per cent increase over the same period last year and placing the award-winning operation on track for yet another year of record sales.
What is being done to further improve passenger facilities at the airport?
That’s an ongoing process. In a bid to ease passenger movement in the terminal and increase capacity, DCA has recently concluded its expansion plans in the Arrivals Building of Terminal 1 at Dubai International Airport. Arriving passengers will find that there are shorter queues and waiting period to complete immigration formalities and baggage clearance.
The latest improvements include an increase in the number of immigration counters from 16 (32 positions) to 22 (44 positions). Three additional baggage belts bring the total up to ten as opposed to seven earlier. The Customs area has also been expanded from 30sqm to 40sqm, while x-ray machines by the exit doors have been removed so that all baggage is now x-rayed before it is actually picked up from the belts by the passenger in the arrivals hall. The Dubai Duty Free shop in the Arrivals has also been doubled in size to provide a better shopping experience for the arriving passenger.
What’s more, to provide a more comfortable experience for those waiting to receive their passengers the meet and greet area has been improved with the installation of special cooling fans.

How did it feel when Dubai airport received the Superbrand status?
It was great because Dubai airport was chosen from among 750 UAE-based companies to receive the award, which recognises outstanding brand qualities identified with a particular brand name. We have worked very hard to establish the brand identity of Dubai International Airport, which became a key factor as it grew from a transit stop to a hub status. The new corporate identity of Dubai airport, which was launched in 2000 with the opening of the Sheikh Rashid Terminal, evolved from the futuristic yet traditional character, grand yet homely atmosphere, dynamic yet physically stable form of the new Concourse or the Sheikh Rashid Terminal itself. The idea being that Dubai International Airport will be represented all over the world by its new look and logo – the Sheikh Rashid Terminal, a mega hub built to cater to the ever-growing global business.

Is the construction of Terminal 3, Concourse 2 and Concourse 3 for passengers and a Mega Cargo Terminal, and upgrades to Terminal 2 on track?
Yes, construction is well under way and work is going on schedule.

What is the progress on the airport city in Jebel Ali?
Taking in to consideration the continuous growth at Dubai Cargo Village we have started the initial works at the airport city in Jebel Ali. The project will be completed in phases. The first phase, costing Dh2 billion, will include the Logistics City and one runway keeping the initial focus on cargo requirements. The airport will consist of a number of terminals, six parallel runways, a large area for cargo and two main entrances. When completed, the airport will have the capacity to handle 140 million passengers and 12 million tonnes of cargo annually. All facilities will be equipped to handle new generation aircraft including the A380.

Finally what, would you say, is your biggest challenge trying to promote Destination Dubai?
The biggest challenge, according to me, is trying to the break into the US market.
We have had workshops with travel and tour operators, who can really convince the man on the street to make up his mind to fly here, and the response has been positive. It is really they who can convince the man in the street.