page contents

Middle East experiential travel is now ‘The Real Deal’ after Dubai outlines plans

Middle East experiential travel is now ‘The Real Deal’ after Dubai outlines plans

GCC countries must marry the very latest attractions with their rich cultural offerings to maximise their tourism potential, according to panellists at the latest seminar session at Arabian Travel Market, entitled ‘The Real Deal: Why selling local experiences matters’.

Issam Kazim, CEO, Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, revealed Dubai welcomed 4.57 million visitors in Q1 2017, an 11% increase on the same period last year, said: “We have focused a lot on highlighting the key propositions that already existed in Dubai, that not many people were familiar with, things that residents and locals took for granted.”

Currently there are 12 UNESCO World Heritage sites within the GCC, with the UAE and Saudi Arabia seeking new listings. There are dedicated cultural villages such as Katara Cultural Village (Qatar), Saadiyat Island Cultural District (Abu Dhabi) and Sharjah Cultural Palace. And religious sites such as Masjid-Al-Haram (Makkah) and Sheikh Zayed Mosque (Abu Dhabi).

It was agreed that the social media revolution was also important to sell local experiences, along with the role bloggers and influencers now play in attracting travellers and campaigns such as #MyDubai and the award-winning Visit Abu Dhabi app, which is available in 10 languages.

Andy Levey, Head of Marketing, La Perle by Dragone said: “Everyone has a phone or a tablet; everyone is a publisher; everyone is a media company, whether they have 500 Facebook followers, a million snapchat fans. It’s an efficient and easy way to really publish what’s going on.

“And just because you’re sharing something, it doesn’t steal from the experience. It only whets the appetite for people to want more. It’s about what you’re wanting to convey to people that you really can’t convey in words or in a sentence and that’s where these mediums are so valuable.”

Moreover, innovation in social media is only the communications aspect, technology in general, will continue to transform the tourism industry, with cloud passports, personalised travel, virtual reality and apps predicted to re-shape consumer habits and marketing strategies over the short to mid-term, according to a report by Colliers International.

During its Tourism and Technology Trends report, Colliers International named five trends driving the travel industry: biometric-enabled baggage solutions; cloud passports; personalised travel; spontaneous travel apps; and virtual reality travel.

Simon Press, Senior Exhibition Director, Arabian Travel Market, said: “Biometric technology will play a significant role in the evolution of baggage tracking systems and immigration clearance, with some forward-thinking names already introducing such technology to the industry, such as Dutch airline KLM and Dubai International Airport.

“In addition, we can expect travel related services to be further developed to enhance personalisation through guest data. Dubai is already at the forefront of travel technology and the discussion now is how far we can take that without travellers finding it intrusive.”

On the other side of the industry, Colliers has identified four defining evolutions of hospitality technology. The first is the utilisation of beacons to pilot Bluetooth across public spaces, allowing for on demand flash marketing within the property or guest identification.

The second, ease of alternative accommodations, focusses on channels such as, and the increasing appetite for experiential travel without the need for hotels. In addition, virtual payment systems and integrated smart phone apps are also tipped to be highly influential.

Press added: “When it comes to technology in hospitality we have seen a complete transformation of the hotel space over the last decade and that same pace of change is set to continue. This will be based on connectivity and the sharing economy. Guests want instant access to useful services and easy solutions to common issues. Dubai is set to welcome its first Bluetooth

connected property in the near future and alternative payment gateways such as Apple Pay and Samsung Pay, along with the use of apps to personalise the hotel experience, are beginning to have a significant influence on hotel operations.”

Virtual reality travel has already been popularised by Marriott International with its Travel Brilliantly campaign, which heavily focused on promoting destinations first. The chain has also pioneered VRoom Service, a first-of-its-kind guest service that allows guests to order inspiring virtual reality experiences to their rooms, created in collaboration with Samsung Electronics America.

In Dubai, Emaar Hospitality was one of the first to introduce in-room iPads for guest to do everything from book dinner to control their environment and even draw the curtains. The use of the iPads helped to increase in-room spending through flash promotions sent directly to guests.

Drone photography is also expected to increase in popularity due to its ability to capture hard to reach locations and the sustained popularity of image-led social networking sites.

Press added: “Like the rest of the world, the travel industry is adapting to our highly digitised lives and this is presenting huge opportunities for innovative thinkers to pioneer new solutions. This penchant for change and adaptation will surely set new benchmarks for the industry.”