Dubai emphasizes tourism sector as economic driver


DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – During a meeting with representatives of the hospitality industry on January 30 at Dubai World Trade Centre, His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General, Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), presented a strategy, putting an emphasis on the strength of the tourism sector as an economic driver for the Emirate’s GDP. The seven-year strategic roadmap highlights that while Dubai remains proud of its success to date, there is recognition of the enablers that need to be delivered by the industry collectively in order for the city to cater for this visitor growth.

Under the “Tourism Vision for 2020,” Dubai expects to attract 20 million tourists by the end of the decade, almost doubling the published visitor traffic from 2012. In order to achieve this objective, it will look to achieve a sustained 7-9% Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) across leisure and business visitors to the Emirate.

Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing has outlined the 2020 Tourism Vision to more than seventy of the emirate’s leading hospitality and travel industry decision makers, as it looks to further strengthen public-private partnership efforts to fuel visitor growth.

According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the 2012 global tourism spend exceeded US$1.3 trillion, with travel driving six percent of the world’s exports of goods and services.

The presentation discussed several initiatives being initiated covering regulatory policy, infrastructure development, product offering enhancement and destination marketing investments to position Dubai as the ‘first choice’ for the international leisure and business traveler.

His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri noted, “Bringing 20 million of the global outbound visitors to Dubai and increasing the GDP contribution from them by 2020 requires us to remain focused on increasing the competitiveness of Dubai’s tourism sector on three fronts: innovative and effective marketing to raise awareness of our depth of offering; redefining travelers’ expectations with consistent service excellence across all tourism touch points and adoption of cutting edge technologies; and pioneering multi-faceted experiences.”

Although the Tourism Vision for 2020 was created to be independent of whether Dubai won the right to host Expo 2020, His Excellency Almarri commented: “Winning the right to host World Expo 2020 only escalates the scale and urgency of what remains to be accomplished. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai often says every peak we reach overlooks the next. This is the recipe for success and advancement and as we look to the future, DTCM recognizes that there is no room for waiting.”

Commenting on hosting the meeting, His Excellency Almarri commented: “The success of the Tourism Vision will continue to be reliant on a city-wide commitment and DTCM will expect to host and leverage forums such as this to align and garner support of the industry as a whole. Creating demand for Dubai as a travel destination is an agenda that must be equally backed by our private sector partners and everyone gathered here is a very key part of that equation. The hotel industry in particular has always been and remains intrinsically linked to Dubai’s success as a visitor destination.”

With an objective of increasing its current hotel room inventory from 80,000 in 2012 to between 140,000 and 160,000 by 2020, a number of measures have been introduced since the Tourism Vision for 2020 was announced in May 2013 in order to enhance and streamline hotel investment and development in the Emirate. These include the announcement of plans to allocate government land for the development of 3 & 4 star hotels; a waiver on the ten percent municipality fee which is levied on occupancy per room per night for 3 & 4 star hotels for a period of time after opening; and a reduction of the approval process period for hotel construction to two months.

During the meeting, HE Almarri also noted that the Tourism 2020 Strategy highlights the importance of both family tourism and business tourism – both of which will likely benefit from new initiatives being prioritized to enhance the destination offering and deliver a world-class experience to these travel segments.

HE Helal Saeed Almarri commented: “Much of the 20 million visitors we are targeting will be from the 25 to 55 year age segment across our main regional and global source markets. In our plans to enhance the destination offering, we have prioritized services and products that are specifically targeted at moving Dubai up in the consideration list for the family segment. Additionally, we need to elevate Dubai’s overall business destination proposition to be able to transition from being a regional leader to a truly global hub for business tourism. This segment is specifically important to us on two counts: firstly business travelers are twenty percent of our target traffic; and secondly the 24-48 hour travel time that is usual for business tourists is our opportunity to provide a preview to Dubai that will incentivize business tourists to return, for leisure and for longer, with friends and family.”

The Tourism Vision for 2020 aims to build for a future beyond 2020 – to continuously revitalize Dubai’s destination proposition; to deliver the next-generation standard in traveler-experience; and to further Tourism’s contribution to the economy of the Emirate.

Hospitality Industry Leaders Praise the Move
Dubai’s 2020 Tourism Vision has been well received by the emirate’s hoteliers and tour operators. The below comments were made following the meeting held on January 30:

Peter Payat, Senior Vice President, Arabian Adventures
“The detailed Tourism Vision strategy shows that there is an exciting time ahead for Dubai with a broad scope of opportunities in the development of tourism. In maximizing these opportunities there are some challenges, and the need to focus on the continued development of infrastructure is key. DTCM, other government departments and the private sector need to work together, to listen and learn from each other and to ensure there is a collective ownership and responsibility in driving this forward and achieving the objectives of the strategy. More meetings like this are vital to ensuring we remain focused on priorities and we need to be prepared to share information, such as the research currently being conducted into the trends of the top source markets – these insights will be important in enabling each of us to develop plans which support the delivery of the strategy.”

Ghassan Aridi, CEO, Alpha Tours
“It was very valuable to have the strategy shared and discussed with us and is an example of the close working links shared between the private and public sectors. There is a lot to do between now and 2020 and the vision is very challenging but it is certainly achievable. It is clear that a lot of work is being done in the next few months by DTCM and more meetings like this are important so that we can all work together to continue the growth of tourism in Dubai.”

Rob Weeden, Vice President – Sales and Marketing, Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts
“Strategically, the plan is world-class and the delivery of it will ensure that Dubai competes on the global stage. It was encouraging to see the focus on the development of DTCM’s overseas office network and the research that is being conducted into growth markets such as China. A focus on increasing visitors during summer is also important and the industry must work together on such aspects to ensure success. Perhaps most encouraging is the thought that has gone into future-proofing the tourism industry – this is not a short-term fix but a detailed long-term strategy.”

Nicholas Clayton, Chief Operating Officer, Jumeirah Group
“It is very encouraging for all players in the travel and tourism industry in Dubai to be united by a common vision of future growth, supported by excellent data and insights and spearheaded by such strong leadership. This is a true public/private partnership striving for a common goal and Jumeirah Group is proud to be part of it.”

David Thomson, Chief Operating Office, JA Resorts & Hotels
“This meeting was a key milestone in the drive of the Dubai hospitality sector to fulfill the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid for the Tourism Industry in 2020. The presentation by His Excellency Helal Almarri clearly laid out what actions needed to be taken both within Dubai in terms of service delivery, the required additions to the hotel inventory and the infrastructure developments and what markets needed to be developed to bring the targeted number of visitors. It was a clear call to action and there is no doubt that everyone who attended the presentation felt empowered by it and understood that the success of Vision 2020 is as much down to the private hospitality sector as it is to the Government.”

Rupprecht Queitsch, General Manager, JW Marriott Marquis
“I was delighted to be present at today’s Stakeholder Meeting with HE Helal Al Marri, a penetrating insight into DTCM’s strategy for the forthcoming year. The breadth of DTCM’s research is extensive, covering regulatory issues, leisure and business topics, and the internal structures of DTCM committed to executing the strategy most effectively. I was particularly interested in the research which showed the rich infrastructure and diversity of Dubai, and the competitive price offering compared to other destinations. Today’s meeting clearly demonstrated the vital role of hospitality leaders and stakeholders in the strategy, working together to raise awareness of Dubai as a destination in an increasingly competitive market.”

Mohammed Awadalla, CEO, Time Hotels
“We appreciate the role played by the DTCM, which is in constant communication with us, advising us of the latest trends and guest requirements to develop tourism still further in the city. In addition to the wise decision made recently by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, which has called for three and four star hotels to be exempt from municipal fees, which will encourage investors to develop hotels in this category, I have recommended to DTCM that they consider monitoring and regulating prices in hotels – a measure which would have a positive impact in attracting MICE tourism to the city. TIME Hotels intends to expand its portfolio to cope with the increasing number of overseas visitors coming to Dubai and to prepare for Expo 2020.”