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Digital Dubai

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The Arabian Travel Market, held at the Dubai World Trade Centre recently brought to the fore how the experience of Dubai is being revolutionsed through proactive social media initiatives and the many new tourism products all aimed at meeting the target of doubling tourism inflow to 20 million by 2020. By Sudipta Dev

Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2015 saw Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) showcasing the emirate through various perspectives –  culture, experiences, content and the new brand campaign. The Dubai pavilion this year had as many as 100 tourism industry stakeholders who highlighted the best and the newest offerings that the vibrant city has to offer to its visitors. One of the interesting aspects that was all too evident was how technology is making a difference in the whole experience of discovering Dubai.

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A case in point is #MyDubai initiative that gets people to share their experiences of Dubai –  from the well known landmarks to the hidden gems. In September last year, 12 of the world’s most influential Instagrammers were invited from around the world. They were teamed with local social media influencers to create ideal itineraries for what they could do in one or two days in Dubai, which included places to eat, activities, adventure and culture. They were filmed in social travel episodes sharing their experiences of Dubai  that shows the city from a different angle. #MyDubai has been helping visitors to plan their own itinerary through photos, videos and stories.

ATM delegates also got a chance to go on an online interactive tour of the city through Dubai 360 that uses special ocular technology with panoramic photos and videos.

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Issam Kazim

Acknowledging that in India a lot of people are tech savvy, researching and connecting through social media, Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation  for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), said, “We are focusing on new mediums to understand how people consume travel nowadays. Historically for us as we started to look at the content available to people online a couple of years ago, it was very poorly  represented. Information was dated, inaccurate, and I felt it was lacking as well in terms of what Dubai really had to offer.” According to Kazim it was important for DCTCM to bring the travel trade locally to showcase what they had to offer and communicating the best of Dubai before the world. Both the travel trade in Dubai and those selling it abroad had to benefit.

Manifold attractions

The tourism attractions of Dubai are manifold and keep adding every year, so for repeat visitors there are always new things to experience. For adventure buffs, activities range from dune bashing to skydiving to snorkelling. For shoppers, the attractions are not only limited to glitzy malls but also the traditional spice markets, textile souks and gold souks. “People need to see that side of Dubai. We need to highlight and bring forward our heritage offerings,” mentioned Kazim.

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Dubai has become a gourmet capital in the region, and not without reason. “We have almost 200 cultures living in Dubai in total harmony,” said Kazim, reminding that at the end of the day Dubai’s total population is made of 20 per cent native Emiratis and 80 per cent of others who chose the emirate as home.

Three of the five theme parks are opening in Dubai in 2016 – Bollywood Parks Dubai, Hollywood themed Motionagate Dubai and Legoland Dubai. “It is exciting to see that many Bollywood movies that are hugely successful in India have influenced people to look at Dubai as a destination,” averred Kazim.

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Dubai is a leading destination in creating family festivals – Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Summer Surprises, Eid in Dubai, Ramadan in Dubai, Dubai Motor Festival and Dubai Food Festival. Every other month there is a festival to attract people. The festivals attract in any given year 15 to 16 million people, who spend billions of dirhams. There are a lot of special promotions  for visitors. For the 20th edition of Dubai Shopping Festival, a 100 kilos of gold were given away to the shoppers. India is one of the main target markets for festivals like Dubai Shopping Festival and Dubai Food Festival. Each festival has its own target market.

Destination for all budgets

In recent years, there has been a strong focus on developing budget category hotels in the city. “Dubai is not only for the ultra rich, it offers a lifestyle for all budgets. While we have a larger pool of five star hotel rooms, there are three -four stars, as well as serviced apartments. We realised that there is a big population that comes to Dubai that wants a bigger offering of three-four stars. So a decree was announced that anybody investing in three or four stars, the first five years the municipality fees of 10 per cent is waived off,” said Kazim, adding further that within a few months of this announcement made last year they had over 50 applications for branded three-four star hotels from international and local chains.

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The emirate takes great pride in being a family destination. The key source markets for DTCM are – Saudi Arabia, India, UK, Germany, other GCC countries. While some travellers want luxurious offerings, there are many repeat visitors, who come in big groups as a family. “We are a family destination. When they come as a couple they might stay in a five star while if they come with a family they would want to stay in a three-four star hotel as they will be spending more money on other things in Dubai. However, we do not want the experience of Dubai to be any different, people coming to Dubai expect certain luxury so even those in three-four star sector should experience certain things. So it is budget for the pocket but not the experience,” mentioned Kazim. He reminded however that they do not overly rely on any one source market and are agile and flexible enough to activate any one market, and launch campaigns in another.

The Annual Visitor Report which was launched at ATM 2015 gave an insight into the markets and segments, visitor demographics, etc. DTCM have 20 offices in its key source markets. India as a market has always been strong, but according to Kazim, it can still be stronger.

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DCTCM is a corporation within DTCM, that is more agile, more flexible, and quickly works with overseas offices. “For us it is important to focus on all segments. Interestingly enough the business segment is important for us to go in – DTCM is not just about getting people to attend the events and business events happening in Dubai but also encourage more and more events to happen in Dubai and attract the right partners from India to come and establish themselves here. Our calendar of event should be easily communicated to the Indian market so that it becomes easy for them to access Dubai,” he added.

Air travel hub

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Paul Griffiths

For the world’s busiest airport, growth in passenger traffic has been primarily driven by the expansion of its home carriers – Emirates and flydubai. “We are in a massive global hub of the world and that is a fantastic place to be, both in the present and the future. Within the next 20 years, demand for air travel is set to double. In APAC the number of travellers will grow more than three times than that of Europe. There is a massive opportunity for Dubai to continue to be a continental hub that it is established today,” said Paul Griffiths, CEO, Dubai Airports.

Dubai’s open skies agreement was established in 1960 and has been the fundamental plank on which the entire aviation business is built. “In 1993 Dubai was 44th in the world in international passenger traffic and no one could ever believe that we could rise up in the ranks so quickly and by 2014 became the world’s number one international airport with 70.4 million passengers. An average day sees 192,000 people come through our airport,” stated Griffiths.

India is Dubai International airport’s biggest market, with growth in passenger traffic increasing by 14.9 per cent in March 2015 from the previous year.

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