As Dubai works to achieve its goal of more than doubling the annual number of visitors in the next seven years, the tourism sector continues to grow at a rapid pace.
Emirates Business caught up with Khalid bin Sulayem, Director-General of Dubai Department of Tourism and Commercial Marketing (DTCM) at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai to discuss the future of the sector.
Dubai has witnessed a significant boom in tourist interest with around seven million visitors coming to the emirate in 2007 – an increase of eight per cent from the year before. What are the important characteristics of Dubai that you depend on for promotion?
Dubai depends on many components in the tourism sector that are considered attractive factors for tourists. There is entertainment, heritage and marketing tourism. Also the emirate hosts many conferences and sport tournaments that attract tourists.
What are the tourist markets from where you aim to attract the highest number of tourists?
We have many important markets, such as the UK and Germany in Europe and Saudi Arabia in the Gulf. There are other international markets such as Spain and Italy. The number of tourists coming from Spain and Italy will rise after the increase in the number of direct flights between the emirate and these nations. Also, three offices representing the DTCM will open in China shortly.
Your aim is to attract 15 million tourists to Dubai by the end 2015. What is your plan to reach this target?
We need sufficient number of hotel rooms to achieve our goal. There are many hotels of different categories that are being constructed, with some old hotels being expanded. All that will help accommodate the 15 million tourists. The DTCM is also focusing on carrying out an effective marketing strategy in current markets and identifying new markets.
Which destinations compete directly with Dubai? And what are your plans to stay competitive?
I cannot say there are destinations that compete with Dubai. There are many tourist destinations that provide different products from what Dubai provides. Tourists coming to Dubai will find different attractions. So we do not have competitive plans, but we do plan to improve tourism products.
Tourism contributes Dh13 billion, or 19 per cent, to the emirate's GDP. Will this rise by the end of Dubai Strategic Plan in 2015?
Definitely, it will rise. If the current percentage is achieved with seven million tourists, it will rise two-fold when the number doubles.
Tourism has an indirect contribution of 31 per cent to Dubai's GDP via aviation, telecommunication and transport sectors. How have these sectors participated in meeting the needs of the tourism sector?
Undoubtedly, these sectors play an important role in tourism. Tourists will not come to Dubai if there were no direct flights, resorts and other tourism facilities.