This summer, nine Irish travel agents – including Michael Holmes of Thriftway Consol – enjoyed a fam trip to Dubai hosted by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, Etihad Airways and Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa. In the October issue of Irish Travel Trade News (out now!) Neil Steedman asked Michael about his experiences…
Was this your first visit to Dubai and, if not, how many times had you been there before, and when?
No this was my third trip to Dubai. My first trip was in November 1999 on a United fam trip. My second trip was a holiday with my dad in November 2010 and then the fam trip with Etihad Airways in June 2012.
What were your expectations / images of Dubai – and how did the Fam Trip confirm and/or change your perceptions of the destination?
My first two trips were completely different. In 1999 people were just starting to discover Dubai as it was mainly a business hub rather than a holiday destination. Also we didn’t get to do many ‘touristy’ things as it was mainly hotel inspections.
On my trip in 2010, although I had seen photographs, I just couldn’t believe how fast the city had grown in those 11-12 years and that Dubai had really become a destination in its own right.
To what type of clients would you recommend Dubai?
Dubai is now a destination for anyone, whether it be for a few days stopover, a family holiday, spa break, golfing holiday or even bird watching.
Would you say that Dubai is suitable for all, or almost all, price budgets?
Yes, Dubai caters for every type of budget, from hostels right up to 6-star luxury.
Is the awareness of Dubai among consumers in Northern Ireland increasing – and are bookings to Dubai as well?
The people in Northern Ireland have a good awareness of Dubai, but maybe not as much as in the UK mainland or the Republic of Ireland.
Is there a big enough range of tour operator packages to Dubai available for the Northern Ireland market? Does Thriftway Travel dynamic package many holidays to Dubai?
I would say that our retail department would nearly always dynamic package Dubai, as we are a consolidator for both Etihad and Emirates. Unless a client wanted something that we could only offer via a tour operator, then they would book the components separately.
What surprised you the most about Dubai during the Fam Trip?
It was great to get a behind the scenes look at the city. We got to do things on the fam trip that you wouldn’t normally do or think of doing on your own holiday, but we can now tell our customers about.
The mosque tour was very informative and the young woman was very open in telling us all about the Muslim faith. We were then invited to ask any questions we wanted and nothing was off limits.
On our trip to Dubai Mall, and although I had been there before, I never knew about kidzania or the Sega zone, which is great for the young kids. The only thing I wished we had time to do was to visit the old town – but there’s always next time!
Although we never made it on to the Dubai Metro, this a great way of getting round the city, beating the traffic and even for seeing the sights of the city such as the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and other landmarks.
How valuable have you found the Dubai Expert training programme?
In this day and age you can never have enough knowledge to give your customers. As good as the Internet is, it’s always good to be able to tell your customers information without having to look it up.