Dubai won the Best Middle East / Africa Destination Award at the 21st anniversary Irish Travel Trade Awards Gala Dinner at the Burlington Hotel, Dublin, on 30th November 2012. During the event, Ingrid Aagesen, Senior Manager of Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, was interviewed by Don Harris of TalkBack.
“We, at Dubai Tourism, are delighted to have received the award for Best Middle East / Africa Destination this year,” she said. “We would like to thank the Irish travel trade for voting for us – we really do appreciate your support. It has been a fantastic year for us, with Irish visitors to Dubai up 29% year-on-year. Thank you for a great year and we are looking forward to working closely with you all again in 2013.”
So Ingrid, how have things changed for Dubai in the past 12 months – you have had huge amounts of publicity in Ireland, and those Irish visitor numbers sound good?
Oh phenomenal! We are extremely excited with what is happening with the Irish market. There are a couple of things: the growth that we are seeing every quarter has meant that year-on-year from September we are up 36% on Irish visitors to Dubai – and those figures are for visitors actually staying in hotels in Dubai, so do not include those visiting friends and relatives – and we are seeing an increase in Irish visitors’ in length of stays. The average length of stay is nearly six nights now, which means people are seeing it as a single destination holiday rather than just a stopover. Another interesting pattern is that we are seeing a huge increase in people staying in 4-star and self-catering accommodation – so Irish people are now aware that there are affordable options.
This year you have had the advantage of Emirates commencing flights from Dublin direct to Dubai from 7th January – and they have had a great year.
Yes absolutely, we have had a good year with Emirates, and of course Etihad Airways has been in the market for five years with its direct flight into Abu Dhabi. The combination of the two is certainly good for us, but the Emirates flight direct into Dubai has certainly given us a significant increase.
A direct flight from Dublin must be a major step forward?
Absolutely, when you can fly direct it is only a 6.5 or 7 hour flight and it is GMT plus 4 hours so from a time zone perspective you don’t suffer from jet lag and you are guaranteed sunshine – it rains on three days of the year!
Your brand name is Definitely Dubai, but what is the main thing you are actually selling? Is it the warmth of the people, or the warmth of the sunshine? Is it the multi-cultural destination that it is?
It’s a huge advantage, of course, that Dubai has year-round sunshine and that’s certainly something we talk about. However, we did some research last year and discovered a few misconceptions that people have about Dubai, so we have really focused on trying to address those. One of them is that we promote Dubai as a family destination – it’s a fabulous place to take the children, as there are so many fantastic attractions and things they can do inexpensively and in some instances free of charge, and Dubai is also an incredibly safe destination. So from a family perspective that is what we promote. In addition, some people have the misconception that Dubai does not have a soul, whereas in fact there are some fantastic things you can do and take advantage of to learn more about the culture and heritage.
What are you planning to achieve in 2013? What might you be promoting that you haven’t so far?
This is the beauty of my job! I am very lucky to be working for a destination like Dubai, because there is always something new to talk about. Every month we have new hotels opening that are offering something unique and different from the existing hotels. There are plans for a whole new development, located between Emirates Road, Al Khali Road and Shaikh Zayed Road, that will include six theme parks – so that’s a lot for us to talk about. Yes, I am hoping for an increase in numbers for Irish visitors, but I also want to work closely with the trade again to make sure they have all the information they need. We will be supporting them again by taking them on Dubai educationals – I would like to get more Irish agents out to Dubai – and get them on to our training programmes so that they have all the tools they need. Overall, however, our messages from last year will be very similar next year, as we still think there is some work to be done.
Dubai Tourism is a sponsor of this year’s 21st anniversary Irish Travel Trade Awards. How many awards events have you come to over the years?
I joined Dubai Tourism four years ago and I have been to every one of the Irish Travel Trade Awards since I joined and this is the second year that I have hosted a table and been a sponsor. I spend a lot of time coming over to Ireland and meeting with the trade – I am here every six to eight weeks.
How does here differ from, say, London or other markets that you might have worked in? When you come to Dublin, is there anything different about the trade here?
Yes, I find it’s a very personal thing actually, and I certainly feel like I am a part of – without sounding too corny – a travel trade family over here. Obviously the more I come over and the more I meet people, the more those relationships build and develop. Ireland is a nice market to work with – I really enjoy it.