By Kathi Everden
Dubai’s tourism sector is booming, with visitor numbers reaching 11,012,487 in 2013, when compared with just below ten million in the previous year. The upward trend bodes well for the success of Expo 2020, says Helal Saeed Almarri, director-general of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). “The strong growth shown in hotel establishment guests in 2013 is a positive first step in our journey to 2020,” he says.
“Having announced the Tourism Vision for 2020 in May 2013, a 10.6 per cent growth in hotel establishment guests demonstrates that we are on track to double the ten million tourists received in 2012 to 20 million per year by 2020 and is an affirmation of the destination’s ever increasing appeal.”
Meanwhile, as well as upgrades including a new airport, hotels, projects, such as the MBR City and Deira Islands, and the expansion of roads and the Metro, authorities have decreed that a whole new image is required, a brand that conveys the wealth of attractions in the city beyond the bling and skyscrapers.
Spearheading this is the new Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing. According to its CEO, Issam Abdul Rahim Kazim, its mandate includes positioning Dubai as a prime destination for tourism, entertainment and events, as well as developing and managing the brand of emirate.
“Much work has already been done over the past 18 months in understanding both the awareness and perception of Dubai in our key source markets,” he says, while speaking with Gulf Marketing Review, AMEinfo.com’s sister publication.
“This work has been conducted by both the internal DTCM team and external research and consultancy agencies and has fed into the creation of the 2020 strategy.”
Kazim stresses a key strategy will be to broaden the understanding of the Dubai destination offering, bridging the perception gap and telling a wider story.
“To give one small example, we recently staged the first Dubai Food Festival as a means of highlighting our impressive gastronomy offer. From Michelin-star chefs to quality street food; some of the world’s biggest bands such as Nobu and Hakkassan to home-grown brands – which are now making waves internationally – our food offer can be a major pull factor for tourists, but is something we have previously undersold.”
The umbrella approach strategy would be determined by market needs from building more hotel apartments near shopping malls and entertainment centres for GCC family visitors through to promotion of different sectors in established markets.
“We are looking at how we adjust our messaging in relation to different target markets,” says Kazim. “For instance, the UK audience is very aware of Dubai’s luxury resort offer and its credentials as a shopping destination, but is it aware of our growing cultural offer in areas such as art and events? Promoting this to the UK audience may lead to increasing the length of stay, which is a key objective in our overall strategy.”
Meanwhile, co-operation with stakeholders is being enhanced to facilitate consolidated messaging and cohesive communication through pooling resources. And, prior to the launch of the new Brand Dubai and associated marketing campaigns, the DTCM is supporting initiatives to enhance awareness of Dubai, such as #MyDubai – a community engagement project launched by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Price of Dubai and the Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, which invites residents and visitors to share photos, videos and stories focused on the city.
“At the DTCM, we are supporting the initiative by creating the #MyDubai e-museum comprising a number of exhibiting online rooms. The first room is @MyDubai on Instagram, which exhibits a selection of submitted images every day, with the objective of telling the story of people’s daily lives in Dubai through multi-media.”
The second room is @MyDubai on Twitter and further rooms on the #MyDubai e-museum include a Facebook page and website – while curated content, which previews on the e-museum, will be used at international exhibitions, in art installations and other multimedia projects that will be launched later in 2014.
(In the first week, 75,000 photos were submitted on Instagram alone with an excess of 400,000 photos submitted by mid March.)
With a breath of fresh air sweeping through the offices of the DTCM and the activity surrounding the launch of Brand Dubai, one other strand of the campaign has been funding – augmented through the launch of the Tourism Dirham in March.
This tourism tax covers all hotels, hotel apartments and guesthouses, and ranges from AED20 per room night for a five-star hotel through to AED10 for a three-star property.
With more than 41 million guests nights recorded last year, it adds up to a substantial boost to the tourism budget.