EXCLUSIVE: Issam Kazim speaks to Aviamost

By viji Wednesday, 27 April 2016 5:16 PM

EXCLUSIVE: Issam Kazim speaks to Aviamost

Add new comment

Host of new mid-market hotels – encouraged by Dubai Tourism-led incentives are expanding options for visitors; Chinese market grosses 30% in 2015

In an exclusive interview with Aviamost the CEO of DTCM, Issam Kazim revealed successful incentives boosting the 3 and 4 star hotel segment. Says Dubai on track to reach ambitious target of 20 million tourists by 2020 as 2015 witnessed 7 ½% growth reaching 14.2 million tourists to Dubai with Chinese market seeing unprecedented growth of 30%

Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) has introduced a more advanced mechanism to measure and track the satisfaction levels of visitors to the city with various aspects of the destination offering from their time of arrival until departure.

As part of its wider Dubai International Visitors Survey (DIVS), this module is designed to scrutinise the end-to-end tourist experience and how likely a visitor of each nationality is to positively endorse Dubai as a must-visit destination, across the core destination pillars and services that are likely to most impact their travel.

The findings, released today at Arabian Travel Market as part of Dubai Tourism’s wider Annual Visitor Report, shows a massive 98% of international respondents across the cross-section of nationalities rating their Dubai travel experience in 2015 at a 7 or higher, with over 61% giving a 9+ score.

Closely mirroring these satisfaction results were ratings that measured the likelihood of the traveller to ‘recommend’ their Dubai visit to their network of friends and family, which showed 97.5% of respondents to be ‘likely promoters’ of which over 60% would be ‘active advocates’ for the Dubai brand.

In keeping with Dubai’s pursuit of excellence, only ratings at 9 and 10 on a 10-point scale are considered to be genuinely ‘happy’ and hence ‘active advocates’ of the city or its specific offering, while ratings of 7 and 8 are considered to be ‘satisfied’ and hence ‘likely promoters’. Anything at a rating of 6 or lower in this survey is earmarked as an area for further development ensuring extremely high standards are maintained and strived for.

Tell us how your opinion of the theme of this year’s ATM which is mid-market travel?

The theme is done by the ATM organizers but it really serves our objectives as well, because everyone knows Dubai’s 5-star offering and we want to maintain that. There is a misconception that it’s a luxury destination and not affordable.

A lot of people do not know that Dubai has amazing 3 and 4 star hotels in great locations and restaurants. I always say that a restaurant is not the reason you may come to a destination, but it will help you decide. Yes. This was the purpose of the Dubai Food Festival. It was a platform to announce to the world about our different culinary offering. Dubai is becoming a culinary destination.

Our focus is to hit 20 million visitors by 2020 and that is doubling the 2012 number. So in a span of 7 – 8 years to achieve that is quite challenging. But whatever Dubai has set its mind on it has been able to achieve it and I think with the leadership and the continuous support to make sure the private and public sector work so cohesively together has been the key to its success and will continue to be the key. So we have been focusing on that a lot.

And if you look at the kind of initiative we announced last year to waive the 10% Muncipality Fee for the next five years on any hotel to be developed in the 3 and 4 star hotels it encouraged people to look at this segment. So we had over 150 applications for 3 – 4 star hotels. And the one thing we have emphasized on, and this is a leadership directive, is that when people come here is that they have a very high expectation of the one thing we emphasise on is that the standard should be high as people expect that when they come to Dubai. And if you see the kind of offerings at 3 and 4 star hotels in Dubai they cannot be found elsewhere.

We identified Family Destination as being our key focus to help us get there but we cannot ignore the ratio which needs to be maintained even if we want to double the numbers, as Business is 20 and 80 is leisure. When it comes to Business there will always be a demand for 3 and 4 star hotels. And when you talk about family tourism not everyone wants to stay in a five star hotel when they travel in groups as they want to spend on other aspects like the features and experiences in Dubai and save a bit on the hotel side. So we have a good option available in terms of the 3 and 4 star hotels and that’s why the ATM’s theme fits our messaging as well.   

Are you on track for the 2020 goal?

If you see end of 2015, we had achieved a 7 and 1/2 % growth year on year and we hit 14.2 million compared to 10 million in 2012. And we already announced 7 – 9 % growth to make sure we achieve the 20 million come 2020. I think this first quarter we achieved a further 5% growth. So I would say we are comfortably well on the way.

Despite the worldwide tourism seeing a big drop?

I am proud to say this that we have always been ahead of the global trend when it comes to tourism so I think for us is we have set the goals to ourselves and we love challenges and the way we have structured every campaign we have set to ourselves and we are looking now at 20 top key source markets and keeping an eye on the next 20 to keep our focus. With China we have seen close to 30% growth last year and they have jumped into the top 10 for us and I think they are still going to grow.

People talked about a drop in the Russian market but Russia has always been and will continue to be an important market. So we made sure that we had a road show and a gala dinner in Russia last year. Our goal has not been a short term one but will always be a long term strategy and we believe that move by us was to show our confidence in the Russian market that we are still here and we can work together to make sure you see us as a key destination.

The hotels say the Russian market has gone up.

That’s a great sign.

We will keep pushing to say how affordable Dubai is, and that it’s a year round destination where women can travel safely here in groups and it’s easily accessible. 

What were your challenges last year?

No matter how much we grow, the key point for me is, and I keep pushing my team towards that is, I still believe that a lot of people still do not know the breadth of Dubai’s offerings. Now when I travel around the world, I know we have moved beyond pointing out on a map where Dubai is, as everyone knows where Dubai is and what it has to offer such as its key highlights like Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa and The Palm. But that’s not enough for me.

I want people to realise how easy it is to access Dubai and women travelling, families travelling and kids enjoying their time in Dubai and the fact that Dubai has something to offer all year round becomes hugely important. If we sat here and took it for granted that people don’t travel in summer, last year for instance, we would not have seen the success we saw last year as summer was the busiest season Dubai has ever seen during August when people say it is hot but it is also the time you see people on the beaches of Dubai. So it shows Dubai is a year round destination so it’s a challenge I will keep before us.