‘Dubai knows how to market itself'

Marriott Hotel Group registered record occupation rates last year in the UAE – with 100 per cent occupancy in most months. Samir Daqqaq, Vice-President of the Marriott International Sales Office, said the achievement was down to the development and renovation that the group has dedicated itself to in the emirate, as well as large promotion campaigns. The group’s international sales via the internet totalled Dh11 billion last year, an increase of 40 per cent compared to 2006.

Working with Marriott International sales office and based in Dubai, Daqqaq has been with the company for nearly 30 years and began this journey at the Khurais Marriott Hotel in Saudi Arabia. He then moved to the Amman Marriott Hotel where he rose from Front Office Manager to Director of Sales and Marketing. He held similar positions in Paris and Warsaw. In 1998, he was promoted to vice-president, global sales where he established the USA Global Sales Organisation. In addition to holding a Bachelor’s degree in Hotel Management, Daqqaq has more than 25 years of intensive training in the hospitality industry with specialisation over the past 20 years in sales and marketing management.

How do you evaluate the performance of the hotel sector in the UAE in general and the performance of Marriott Hotel Group in particular?

Undoubtedly, 2007 was historic for the Emirate’s hotels, tourism sector and Marriott Group. Dubai is growing steadily to reach its targeted number of visitors, which is 15 million tourists by 2015. The tourism sector is still attractive. The evidence is that the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) granted 17 licences for the establishment of new hotels and there are 34 new hotel apartments. Dubai has come a long way in tourism and I don’t think there is any other destination in the region that can compete with us. In spite of the fact the city does not have the ancient tourist factors other destinations possess, it has outclassed them through adoption of marketing and tourist ideas. Dubai knows how to market itself via the five factors – sun, sand, shopping, safe and sea – which have changed the desert into a heaven.

Given your 30 years of experience, how do you evaluate the emirate’s marketing strategy?

As I said earlier, Dubai knows how to market itself. The emirate has changed into an international city after it studied global markets. It drew up plans that met the requirements of these markets. The emirate does not have historical or religious tourism.

However, the officials here created luxury facilities that tourists look for. Hotels were established first, then Emirates airline, stability, safety and direct marketing. The rulers of the emirate definitely have a strategic vision.

Do you think there are areas not well exploited in the sector?

Of course there are. The show and conference tourism sector is important. It offers opportunities, especially in the United States, where there are hundreds of societies and unions that wish to hold summits in Dubai, but lack of marketing is a hurdle. I have encouraged DTCM officials to promote Dubai in this field.

How was the performance of Marriott Group in the UAE in 2007?

Last year was historic for Marriott Group. The occupation rate did not fall below 100 per cent during 85 per cent of 2007. This is a historic rate that has not been registered before.

Were your hotels affected by the intense competition in Dubai?

Definitely, there is fierce competition. Each time a hotel enters into the market, the other old hotels feel more pressure to retain clients.

What are your sales via the internet?

Marriott’s sales via the internet arrived at $3bn (Dh11bn). In addition, Marriott’s website is regarded as one of the world’s top 10 websites and one of the world’s most profitable websites.

How do you make profit despite competition and increase in the number of hotels in the UAE?

Marriott has continual development plans. We always renew our services and all Marriott hotels now meet the requirements of the young generation.

Is there a need for more non five-star hotels in Dubai?

Non five-star hotels are necessary. Dubai lacks three and four-star hotels and even two-star hotels, and even bed and breakfasts. The absence of these categories of hotels made Dubai lose the low-income tourists.

What is the position of Dubai as an international tourism destination?

Dubai occupies a respectable position on the map of global tourism. But Paris, London, Frankfurt and New York are still the biggest competitors in the world.

And what about the Middle East?

Dubai is still in the first place in the region. But Qatar has begun to take over a considerable percentage of tourists.

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