More breathtaking projects on the way to the EmirateDubai has always got to be taken seriously. Over the past 20 years it has announced plans that have made people, initially, shake their heads in disbelief, but then those plans have quickly and surely turned into reality.
When ITCM was in Dubai a few weeks ago, we heard of more remarkable projects in the pipeline – and some that had already been achieved which, in our opinion, have not received great enough recognition in the world outside.
One of these was the remarkable incentive programme for the Chinese company Nu Skin, a developer and distributor of health and beauty products. The original quotation from Dubai was for an incentive programme for 6,000 award winners. However, by the time the incentive was under way, it needed a specially chartered fleet of 18 aircraft, including the latest Emirates A-350s, to transport the astonishing total of 14,500 people from China on back-to-back programmes, each of almost two weeks. As many as 40 hotels were engaged in hosting the party for 140,000 room nights. It is estimated to have contributed US$80m to the Dubai economy.
Has anyone ever heard of a bigger, more ambitious incentive travel achievement than that?
And the activities were also ambitious. Excursions were made into the neighbouring emirate Abu Dhabi to visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the world’s largest, and the Formula 1 race track.
In Dubai the incentive programmes included, of course, dune driving and desert dinners and visits to the top of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. In fact, one group of the delegates was honoured by having His Excellency Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, not only to meet them but to act as their lift operator, taking them in one minute from ground level to the Observation Deck on the 148th level.
In comparison, the incentive planned for 2015 from Brazil’s Petrobras is small at 2,000 guests, but it is still the largest ever incentive group to travel out from Brazil and one that would be a feather in the cap of any incentive salesman from any other country.
The information about Dubai as a destination for events provides constant ‘Gee Whiz’ facts and figures. His Excellency Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, enumerated some of Dubai’s achievements and future targets.
Dubai is already the world’s fifth most visited country, according to MasterCard research. Its hotel room stock increased by 8.8% in the year ending June 30 2014.
He also explained that whereas most destinations promote a specific tourism brand, such as ‘sand and sea’ or ‘culture’ or ‘sport’, Dubai is emphasising a total city brand. Epitomised by the DUBAI symbol made up from both English and Arabic letters, it stands for the whole diversity of attractions and activities.
‘These range’, he went on, ‘over superb beaches, unrivalled shopping, fabulous hotels, the most modern and exciting theme parks, locations with fascinating history and heritage, festivals of many different cultures and an unmatched choice of top quality cuisine from the Middle East, Mediterranean, North America, Europe and the East’.
It is therefore easy to believe that Dubai will achieve its most ambitious target to date. It is aiming for 20m visitors per annum by the year 2020. This is the momentous year when Dubai will be host to the World Expo.