Dubai aims to be top destination

Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) is pushing ahead with the goal of making the emirate one of the top tourism destinations in the world. This target is looking increasing attainable, despite the present upheaval in the industry, DTCM Director-General KHALID A BIN SULAYEM tells TTN.
Dubai's skyline is changing continually as more and more new buildings come up.

Q. DTCM along with other Dubai government organizations, has been promoting the business as usual message following the recent events in the US and Afghanistan. Could you please outline the extent of impact of those events on the tourism and travel industry in Dubai and specific measures being taken and planned in the near term by DTCM to counter that impact?

A. There is no denying the effects of the events of September 11 on the tourism business worldwide. Dubai however, has been very proactive in playing an active role in turning around the circumstances to a large degree by going ahead with our commitments as planned.

While the international tourism industry in general has been employing a "wait and see" approach - Dubai is leading the way forward in supporting the local and international travel trade.

We have enhanced our efforts in restoring confidence within the travel trade in Dubai and some of our major markets around the world and are undertaking a drive to rebuild consumer confidence.

Two major promotions we have launched post September 11, include the Dubai Christmas Shopping Package which ran from November 15 to December 15 and a campaign targeting the international travel trade that was launched at the World Travel Market in London.

The second package is designed to attract more than 1,500 travel agents on a Dubai familiarisation trip from major overseas markets from across Europe. They will be given a thorough orientation of the destination and will spend three nights/four days in the emirate to experience at first hand its lifestyle and tourist attractions.

Through stepped up promotional activity within our stronger markets such as the GCC and Europe and through a series of key initiatives, we may even be able to turn around these losses.

Q. Longer term, what is DTCM's vision of the future of tourism in Dubai and the wider Gulf and Middle East region?

A. The Dubai Government is deeply committed to the development of trade and tourism. As the sole planning, development and regulating authority for tourism in Dubai our policies have been made with an eye to safeguard the long-term interests of the destination.

Dubai is already the leading tourist destination in the region and has what it takes to become increasingly popular and be counted among the world's top international tourist destinations.

The major infrastructure developments taking place in Dubai will ensure that we are well placed to meet the demands of the future.

While the future outlook for the international tourism industry appears unexciting for the moment, we are optimistic that things will get back on track soon.

Dubai in the meanwhile will do everything it takes to expand its share further.

The long-term forecasts for the industry based on the vision of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai, UAE Minister of Defence and Chairman of the DTCM envisages 15 million visitors by 2010.

Q. What are the new tourism projects underway to promote tourism to Dubai? And are you targeting any specific sectors/markets, especially in the light of the general worldwide downturn?

A. There are a series of major projects coming up in Dubai. As a matter of fact there are currently 730-new multi-storeyed buildings under construction in Dubai to give you an indication of the construction boom in the emirate.

Projects such as The Palms (formerly Palm Islands) developments, Dubai International Airport Expansion, Dubai Marina, Dubai Festival City and a series of new hotels between now and 2005 will ensure that the emirate is well placed to handle the growth in arrivals.

Moreover, a huge 7,500 sq.m. Convention Centre is being readied in time for the World Bank/IMF conference in Dubai in 2003, which will bring the focus of the world's meetings, incentives, conventions and exhibitions industry on the emirate.

The DTCM is setting up a Dubai Convention Bureau to market and sell the Convention Center.

Q. Have you seen an increase in tourist figures as a result of promotional campaigns undertaken by you over the past few years?

A. Yes indeed. To give you an indication - Dubai's hotels received over one million guests in 1993 and in 2000 Dubai's hotel establishment guests crossed the 3.5 million mark.

We have played an active role in creating awareness about the destination and can take fair share of credit for this substantial growth.

Q. Many of DTCM's promotional campaigns have reportedly targeted regional tourists both from the Gulf and the wider Mideast region. Can you give me facts and figures on the results of such campaigns?

A. It is difficult to accurately quantify such figures. However, through targeted promotions within the region and internationally, we have managed to diversify Dubai's visitor appeal and established the emirate as an all season destination rather than a winter escape.

Dubai's tourism industry has shown progressive growth patterns over the last couple of years against sustained growth in the number of hotels and hotel apartments.

To give you an example, Dubai's hotel establishments have recorded substantial growth in guests from the GCC, up by 22.54 per cent in 2000 to 771,032 as against 650,475 in 1999 which was a growth of 18.53 per cent over the previous year.

Q. What are you doing to further attract this segment of tourists?

A. We employ the entire range of our integrated marketing campaign to target the regional visitor which avails of traditional and non-traditional media across all channels including direct mail, personal marketing visits, promotions such as breakfast seminars and workshops, trade and consumer advertising, marketing communications, roadshows and exhibitions, tele-marketing, news bulletins, newsletters, the web and e-mail as well as hosting of familiarisation visits.

Q. Number of visitors to Dubai?

A. Between 1999 and 2000 the numbers have grown by 13 % to reach the 3.5 million mark.

Q. From which area have you seen the maximum inflow of tourists?

A. Conventionally Europe and the GCC have been our strongest tourism origin markets. Practically 30 per cent of the total hotel guests come from Europe followed by Asia 22 per cent, GCC 21 per cent while inter-emirate guests accounts for seven per cent.

Q. Any other relevant facts and figures?

A. An interesting figure recently released by the Ministry of Planning states that in the 30 years since the formation of the UAE, more than $225 billion have been spent on infrastructure and development.