“All our promotional activity in 2015 will focus on eight core themes: Gastronomy, Beach and Marine, Outdoor Adventure, Culture and History, Spa and Hotel, Shopping, Family, and Events,” Ian Scott, Director UK & Ireland, Dubai Tourism, said in an interview with Irish Travel Trade News. “We also have the world’s most famous boy band, One Direction, visiting the Sevens Stadium Dubai in April,” he added.
What is Dubai Tourism’s target for Irish visitors in 2015?
We are now almost 20 months into the delivery of Dubai’s ‘Tourism Vision for 2020’ and significant first steps have been taken to achieve the target of attracting 20 million annual visitors to the city by 2020. The Irish market, as with the UK, requires double-digit growth in 2015 and the ensuing years to remain on target and we are certainly set to hit that figure.
In order to make our Tourism Vision for 2020 a reality, we arenot only continuing to profile Dubai and its many fantastic developments across the Irish market to drive bookings, but we are also working hard to expand and enhance our tourism offering in order to attract new and repeat visitors.
2015 will bring an increase in accommodation outside of the 5-star bracket; the fruition of a number of innovative and exciting attractions that have been in development over the last few years, from theme parks to the new cultural quarter; new and improved infrastructure, including a tram network; and a number of new events spanning gastronomy, music, sport, art and culture.
What are your main marketing themes for 2015 to achieve that target?
We will focus on our eight key communications pillars for 2015 and all activity will focus on promoting these core themes. Our eight themes comprise: Gastronomy, Beach and Marine, Outdoor Adventure, Culture and History, Spa and Hotel, Shopping, Family, and Events.
How will you be promoting Dubai as a family holiday and gastronomic destination?
Dubai’s family product offering is constantly expanding, with new hotels and attractions having opened in 2014 and set to open in 2015. As well as promoting these through agent training and marketing activities, we will also be running our annual ‘Summer Is Dubai’ tactical campaign run in conjunction with a series of our tour operator partners to drive greater awareness of what the emirate has to offer the Irish family market over the summer months and to push conversion.
Last year we saw a 19% year-on-year increase in Irish visitors in August –3,301 compared to 2,775 in August 2013 – highlighting the success of our campaign and the growing appeal of Dubai as a family summer holiday destination.
With more than 10,000 eateries, the city’s growing profile as a gastronomy destination will be celebrated this year with the return of the Dubai Food Festival, which takes place from 6th – 28th February. The festival is a 22-day programme of events, activities and mall and restaurant activations created to highlight the diverse food offering of the emirate, from 5-star gourmet to quality street food; international brands to a burgeoning scene of home-grown concepts influenced by Arabic flavours and the menus of 200 nationalities who live in Dubai.
To promote the festival, Dubai Tourism joined forces with UK-based food artist Paul Baker to create a Dubai Foodscape, which was on display at World Travel Market in London and will be on display during the Festival.
Has Dubai Tourism now overcome the ‘myths’ about Dubai among Irish travel agents?
The stories that have found their way into national press over the years have certainly created negative perceptions, but because of the nature of the reporting, we know that these perceptions are based on myths not reality, and we have worked hard to tackle those myths. We conducted research to inform us what stories people have read, which they believed, and, most important of all, which had a negative impact on their likelihood to book a holiday.
We have overcome negative perceptions based on myths among the Irish travel agents very simply by focusing on the reality of what Dubai does have to offer, and why 11 million people visited in 2013, many of them not for the first time. From a trade perspective, all of these myths are being dealt with all of the time through all our agent-training initiatives.
What is Dubai Tourism planning as regards support for / promotion to Irish travel agents and tour operators?
We will continue to work with our traditional, specialist and niche tour operator partners to run joint promotions and integrated campaigns that incorporate trade and consumer activity.
We will engage in a strategy that integrates extensive face-to-face training at a variety of events including trade partner roadshows, inhouse travel agent and tour operator visits, call centre training sessions, and joint tour operator sales calls, as well as online training; event hosting and sponsorship; familiarisation trips; trade-specific social media channels and regular product newsletter updates.
We operate a destination training strategy that not only educates agents but also excites, entertains and engages them to maintain their interest in the emirate and keeps Dubai front of mind when they sell. The many different mediums help the travel trade to fully understand the destination and thus sell holidays to Dubai with expert knowledge and confidence, pairing individual customers to the most fitting Dubai experience for them.
What is the ‘split’ in Irish visits to Dubai between client self-bookings, tour operator packages, and travel agent dynamic packages?
We do not have statistics that showcase this split, however we are committed to supporting all the ways in which consumers can book holidays to Dubai.
Did the ‘split’ in Irish visits in terms of luxury and economy accommodations booked change in 2014?
We have seen increased numbers of Irish visitors across all types of accommodation, but no discernible change in the split.
What are the main attractions and hotels scheduled to open in 2015?
We have a vast array of attractions and hotels opening up in 2015. Upcoming attractions include:
Dubai Safari Project, opening Q1 2015: The park, in an area of almost 400 hectares, will comprise a safari village, Arabian village, Asian village, African village, children’s zoo, butterfly park and botanical garden, in addition to educational and veterinary facilities. About 1,000 animals from across the world will be housed in temperature-controlled environments.
Deira Fish Market, opening 2015: Dubai’s new 11,000 square metre, Dhs250 million (€60m) fish market at Al Hamriya will incorporate hundreds of fish and fruit and vegetable stalls, spice shops and restaurants and is set to replace the old fish market that has stood in Deira since 1988.
Dubai Frame, opening 2015: This structure will be an iconic centrepiece within Dubai’s Zabeel Park. Raising 150 metres from the ground and being 93 metres wide, the hollow shape will resemble a huge picture frame and will have an elevator up to the top of the frame at 150 metres where visitors will walk along a glass-floor bridge from which they can enjoy impressive city views.
Dubai Design District, opening 2015: This is a purpose-built community dedicated to promoting and nurturing emerging local talent, while also providing a creative home to established international design, luxury and fashion brands ().
IMG Worlds of Adventure, opening 2015/16: This 140,000 square metre project will be the world’s largest temperature-controlled indoor themed entertainment destination with a capacity to welcome in excess of 20,000 visitors a day. It will be the first leisure destination in the world to bring together global brands, Cartoon Network and Marvel, in one location, in addition to Lost Valley – Dinosaur Adventure, an original concept by the developers Ilyas & Mustafa Galadari (IMG) Group ().
Nine new hotels opened in 2013/2014, including Four Seasons’ debut property in the emirate at the end of last year, and a further six hotels are due to open in 2015: InterContinental Dubai Marina (opening Q1), Palazzo Versace Dubai (Q1), R Hotels (Q2), St Regis Dubai (Q2), W Hotel (Q3) and the TheWestin Dubai (Q4).
What special one-off events are likely to attract Irish visitors in 2015?
As well as our ever-popular annual festivals that take place in the first quarter of the year, including the Dubai Shopping Festival (already underway), the Dubai Food Festival and Emirates Jazz Festival in February and the Emirates Festival of Literature in March, we also have the world’s most famous boy band, One Direction, visiting the Sevens Stadium Dubai in April.
Dubai is fast-becoming the go-to destination for first-class entertainment, with the world’s biggest artists choosing the city as the region’s stop on their world tours and more and more tourists are visiting the emirate on account of its unmatched entertainment offering.
How are stopovers doing among Irish onward travellers?
We do not have detailed stats on stopovers, but there is huge potential in this market.