Titanic CITY

An artist’s impression of Dubai’s new coastline

WITHOUT doubt the region’s tourism growth engine, Dubai is now moving to develop new feeder markets such as China and North America, even as it broadens its appeal with mind-bending projects.

Khalid bin Sulayem, director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), answered an email question-naire from TTN on the authority’s plans and strategies. Excerpts:

What has been the year to date tourist arrival figures in Dubai?
In 2005, Dubai hotels played host to 6.2 million guests. Dubai’s impressive portfolio of 409 hotel and hotel apartments with over 40,000 rooms played host to 6.2 million guests in 2005, up 14 per cent over the previous year. [DTCM’s first quarter numbers for 2006 are 1.7 million guests, up seven per cent on the same period in 2005 – despite the official mourning period.
Where are the majority of the tourists coming from? Still largely Europe?

The UK tops the chart with close to 700,000 hotel guests in Dubai in 2005.

What are the new emerging source markets for Dubai? Are you looking at North America, as Emirates is flying further north?
We have an office in New York to cover the USA. We are working with Emirates in promoting Dubai in this market. We have been active in this market for quite sometime now.

Are there plans to open new tourist offices?
We presently have 15 overseas representation offices. We are studying newer markets and if a need is felt we will open new offices.

Dubai is increasingly being seen as an expensive destination, even with budget hotels opening in the city – how is DTCM trying to change that?
Dubai is an open market and the rates are decided by demand and supply. We are studying this issue thoroughly. The classification of hotels is being reviewed to accommodate this kind of hotels. There will be new categories of classification for the hotels and hotel apartments.

As Dubai loses business to Sharjah, Abu Dhabi, Doha and Bahrain, because it has become more difficult to get rooms, what is the DTCM’s response?
We always believe that Dubai’s aggressive promotion and marketing in overseas markets all these years has helped the tourism industry in the region and many destinations have benefited and more are trying to follow the success model of Dubai.  We believe in complementing and cooperating to ensure that tourism takes off in the region in a big way.

Dubai is popularly known as a shopping destination, are you looking at new initiatives to broaden that appeal?
Dubai is an ideal year-round business and leisure destination. We are working to broaden the reach and appeal of Dubai in the inter-national markets. Projects like SkiDubai and the forthcoming projects in Dubailand will help enhance the global appeal of the destination.

So have tourists’ perceptions of Dubai have changed in recent years?
The perception of Dubai has changed for better.

What are your major plans for 2007?
To bring more tourists to Dubai from established and emerging markets and provide services and standards beyond the expectations.

What are the new initiatives planned for the MICE market?
The Dubai Convention Bureau (DCB) and DTCM are working hard to promote Dubai for this niche market. We have appointed the Janet Sealy Partnership in London to promote and market Dubai’s MICE strengths in Europe. New exhibitions and conferences are to be held in 2007 and 2008. We are looking at generating additional room  nights from the MICE market.