Bader Ali Habib, Regional Head of Proximity Markets, Dubai Department of Economy & Tourism.

India’s travel industry is poised for growth, with a focus on data-driven approaches, calculated risks, and experimentation. Dubai’s tourism industry is also seeing investment in infrastructure and attractions, with a focus on sustainability. Off-peak season tourism presents challenges for both the destinations, but it can also be an opportunity for cultural and environmental experiences.

Globally, Dubai recorded an 11 per cent year-on-year increase in international visitors from January to March 2024, with its hotels achieving average occupancy of 83 per cent, one of the highest in the world. In terms of proximity markets, Dubai Tourism is leaving no stone unturned in its efforts to grow the lucrative Indian market.

In an exclusive interview with ETTravelWorld, Bader Ali Habib, Regional Head – Proximity Markets, Dubai Department of Economy & Tourism revealed ambitious plans to take India business to the next level.

India number 1 source market
“India has been and will continue to be our number one market. We saw 687,000 Indian visitors in the first quarter of 2022 alone, a 12 per cent increase over last year. Our goal is to build on this momentum,” said Habib.

Some of the key focus areas outlined by Habib include offering affordable short-stay packages for Indians transiting via Dubai, targeting the fast-growing solo and couples segment, and capitalising on the summer travel season through promotions and partnerships.

Notably, summer marketing strategies for Dubai Tourism include targeted performance marketing and campaigns. The Dubai Department of Economy & Tourism is promoting the emirate globally and showcasing the distinguished experience it is keen to provide visitors, noting that its well-considered strategies are clearly reflected in the steady growth in tourist numbers.

Dubai is also doubling down on tier-2 and tier-3 cities, said Habib. “A large portion of our visitors now come from smaller cities. We want to penetrate deeper and engage with audiences beyond the metros,” he added.

The senior tourism official exuded confidence that Dubai is well-positioned to strengthen its lead over competitors. “Our focus on innovation, sustainability initiatives and data-driven strategies will help consolidate our position as the top destination for Indian travellers,” Habib mentioned.

New partnerships & initiatives
On current and future partnerships, Habib noted that Dubai Tourism has consolidated its partnerships this year with a focus on fewer but more impactful associations. “This is already yielding a 10 per cent increase in returns,” he informed.

On product development, Habib stated that Dubai is working on a multi-year partnership with a sports and pop culture club to boost its entertainment offerings. Luxury and lifestyle segments will also see enhanced experiences catering to high-spending Indian travellers.

Dubai DXB airport sees record 2024 traffic after 8.4% rise in Q1

“With a strong start to Q2 and an optimistic outlook for the rest of the year, we have revised our forecast for the year to 91 million guests, surpassing our previous annual traffic record of 89.1 million in 2018,” CEO Paul Griffiths said in the statement. Dubai is the biggest tourism and trade hub in the Middle East, attracting a record 17.15 million international overnight visitors last year.

He emphasised the importance of data-driven approach and experiments with new ideas to stay ahead.

Dubai is also expanding its influencer marketing efforts. Habib said, “Beyond content deals, we are focusing on more strategic influencer engagements. Some new initiatives in this area will be announced soon.” He also elaborated on trending engagements in India, highlighting potential segments such as solo travellers and couples.

When asked about new attractions, Habib teased, “A massive project set to open next year will be a huge boost. But I can’t disclose details yet. Visitors will be impressed with what’s in store.”

Habib also emphasised on the importance of building campaigns that resonate with Indian audiences, leveraging Bollywood and cricket as cultural touchpoints.

Sustainable tourism goals
With the UAE’s ‘Year of Sustainability’ extending into 2024, Dubai continues its commitment to sustainability by supporting global and country-wide objectives.

Dubai has also implemented several sustainable tourism initiatives to address over-tourism and protect the environment. The destination is launching the “Dubai Sustainable Tourism” program that mandates all stakeholders to comply with sustainable practices. Other initiatives include sustainability stamps for hotels to incentivise compliance with sustainability requirements.

“From leadership down, everyone is accountable for implementing green practices. This is crucial to manage tourism volumes while protecting natural heritage. Dubai is implementing urban planning and infrastructure development to accommodate tourism growth in a sustainable manner. We are committed to achieving our net zero goals by 2050,” said Habib on sustainable tourism initiatives.

India's global travel & tourism index rank up at 39th: WEF index

The index, prepared in collaboration with the University of Surrey, showed India is highly price-competitive (18th) and boasts competitive Air Transport (26th) and Ground and Port (25th) infrastructure. In particular, India’s strong Natural (6th), Cultural (9th) and Non-Leisure (9th) Resources help drive travel, and the country is only one of three to score in the top 10 for all the resource pillars, the WEF said.

  • Published On May 22, 2024 at 07:20 PM IST

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