Helal Almarri, Director-General, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM): Interview

Helal Almarri, Director-General, Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM)

Interview: Helal Almarri

What strategies in the coming years could encourage private investment aimed at making Dubai a more compelling family destination?

HELAL ALMARRI: Dubai already offers a huge range of attractions aimed at families and, looking ahead, we can expect a host of new family oriented developments to open in the emirate. Dubai hosts a programme of family friendly events and festivals throughout the year, and we will continue to work with both the private and public sectors to further develop our offering. In addition, the emirate provides a range of affordable and family friendly accommodation options, from five-star resorts to three- and four-star hotel and hotel apartment establishments, and those numbers will continue to grow.

Hoteliers and investors have been given incentives to develop more mid-range hotels, with eligible properties granted a concession on the standard 10% municipality fee that is levied on the room rate for each night of occupancy. The initiative is designed to incentivise hotel owners to bring forward construction timelines, and speed up the creation of more three- and four-star hotel rooms. We are also introducing holiday home classification and regulation, which will further diversify our accommodation offering, and also help to meet the forecast demand for rooms, particularly family accommodation, in the medium and long term.

What type of initiatives in the hospitality sector will be required to ensure that Dubai has a sufficient pool of qualified staff to meet its growth targets?

ALMARRI: Dubai already has the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, which plays an important role in training those employed in the sector. We also expect the new Dubai College of Hospitality Training to be in operation by the end of 2015. This facility will provide certification for various hospitality-based professions. In addition, Dubai’s continued Emiratisation efforts will grow the pool of UAE nationals working in the travel and hospitality industry. DTCM provides a range of courses and training for anyone interested in enhancing their skills and tourism industry knowledge, and has set up a concierge group in association with industry partners to ensure visitors receive the best possible service and information during their stay.

With the average daily cost of hotels in Dubai among the highest in the world, does this deviate from the emirate’s tourism development strategy?

ALMARRI: Contrary to some previously issued third-party figures which take averages across all hotels in a city and fail to take into account Dubai’s high volume of upper-upscale accommodation in comparison to other destinations, Dubai is a very affordable city in which to stay. Dubai’s average room rate for the first half of 2014 was Dh637 ($173). A recent Bloomberg report shows that our average room rate for the five-star segment is lower than many global cities with which we compete – including London, Los Angeles, New York, Paris, Singapore, Hong Kong and Milan.

We are satisfied with our room rates, but it is crucial that we continue to work with hoteliers to ensure that, while hotel revenues increase, room rates remain affordable. We will maintain close relationships and a constant dialogue with our stakeholders to ensure hotels do not operate for the sake of the short-term gain of increased revenues to the detriment of long-term growth. It is not the government’s role to manage pricing, but a strong spirit of partnership has ensured that Dubai remains competitive and not overpriced.

With Dubai’s Islamic strategy focusing heavily on hospitality, how important is this segment?

ALMARRI: Halal tourism is particularly popular with travellers from the GCC, Indonesia and Malaysia – all of which are key source markets for Dubai and areas of focus for the DTCM. Halal tourism is worth billions of dollars, and it makes both cultural and economic sense for us to have a strong focus on the industry. To that end, Dubai offers suitable accommodation and dining options, and activities that appeal specifically to Muslim visitors.


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The Report: Dubai 2015

Tourism chapter from The Report: Dubai 2015

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