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Tuesday, 05 May, 2015, 15 : 00 PM [IST]

Discover Dubai: Emirate elaborates plans to create No. 1 business events hub in 5 years

What differentiates Dubai as a global business events destination is not just its world-class infrastructure and products, but the incredible professional support system that stakeholders of the industry are putting in place assiduously, in a seamless fashion. P Krishna Kumar, who attended ‘Discover Dubai’ Business Events Study Mission of Dubai Business Events—a division of Dubai Tourism—reports
Dubai and its visionary leadership have always believed in dreaming big and working tirelessly to make those dreams come true. The iconic structures that dot the length and breadth of Dubai’s skyline, especially Downtown Dubai, are testament to the unflinching efforts. The transformation of Dubai from a sleepy city into a truly cosmopolitan business and leisure hub in the last three decades has been quite dramatic. The city is still evolving and there is a strong resolve to make it a happening city in the world for tourism and hospitality in the next five years. And all these, as the city gears up for the third largest attended event in the world - Expo 2020.

The tourism and hospitality industry contributes a healthy 20 per cent to Dubai’s GDP. The city hosted 11.6 million international visitors last year, and has set an ambitious target of 20 million international tourists by 2020. Without resting on their laurels, the visionary administrators of the emirate have strategies in place to achieve the seemingly daunting target. They want to take advantage of their strategic and physical resources, backed by well-defined service delivery systems. These include the city’s geo-centric location on the world map, truly cosmopolitan social fabric that is home to 200 nationalities, unparalleled infrastructure and attractions, the world’s top airport in international passenger ranking, an airline that connects to 146 cities in the world, and high standard of hospitality and culture.


Common Vision

Through Business Events Study Mission for Asia, the organisers tried to showcase the city’s immaculate prowess to host events of any size and stature. The three-day Mission was conducted in the same fashion and with the same precision as for any other event. The travel and tourism stakeholders in Dubai work like a well-oiled machine to make each and every event that comes to the city a truly experiential one for the delegates. “We have excellent connections with tourism and government stakeholders to ensure that events run like clockwork, and can ensure that flights, visas, customs, and even traffic management considerations are taken care of for business events,” said Steen Jakobsen, Director, Dubai Business Events, while addressing the delegates, who were drawn from Asia. Once they confirm a global business event, all service partners—hotels, airports, airlines, convention venues, and DMCs—work together for its success, he added.

Dubai hosted over 370 events last year with over two million business delegates, which constituted about 20 per cent of the total international travel into the city. The stakeholders have their own stories to share about some of the unique events that Dubai has hosted with finesse. One of the most challenging, according to many, was that of an incentive group of 14,500 pax from a skincare company, Nu Skin Enterprise Inc. Emirates, the flagship carrier, operated 77 scheduled and three charter flights over a period of one week. They offered customised services for the delegates to make their experience enriching. “We all worked together as a team to make them comfortable, right from the moment they boarded their flight in China to landing in Dubai. We prepared personalised headrests, customised our public announcement system, the menu served onboard was shared in advance, and we prepared over 400 cakes for the delegates who celebrated their birthdays during the journey. Emirates made sure that the flights landed at Concourse C so that the delegates didn’t need to walk long distances to reach the immigration counters,” recalled Dhriti Punjabi, Key Accounts Development Manager, Global Sales, Emirates, enumerating the procedures they followed to offer the delegates a fantastic experience. She also spoke about how the airline customised its offerings for a 300-member destination wedding group from Kolkata on a recent visit. MICE revenues have also grown ten times between 2013-14 and 2014-15 for Emirates, she informed.

Dubai is also rapidly upgrading its airport infrastructure. Dubai International, which last year became the top airport in terms of number of passengers handled to surpass London’s Heathrow, is all prepared to increase its capacity from the current 75 million passengers to 90 million by the year-end and ultimately to 100 million passengers by the end of the decade. “Dubai International will be finishing a USD eight-billion investment with the completion of the new Concourse D, which will increase our passenger-handling capacity from 75 million to 90 million. Around 100 international airlines would be moving to the new concourse by the end of this year,” said Lorne Riley, Director Corporate Communications & Business Development, Dubai Airports. He said that the second Airport, Al Maktoum International, is being developed with focus on future growth demand. The rulers have already sanctioned USD 32 billion for development of the airport, which would create the world’s biggest airport infrastructure that has a capacity to handle 120 million passengers at one time. “We are restructuring our organisation to deliver groundbreaking passenger experiences in Dubai. We want to eliminate all legacy processes that create queues at the airport,” he said.

Outstanding MICE Infrastructure
An outstanding feature of Dubai is its world-class MICE infrastructure. The Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC) alone boasts of more than one million sq ft of space for meetings, exhibitions, and conferences, which is the largest purpose-built complex for events and exhibitions in the region. The multi-purpose halls in the complex can be customised for events of any size ranging from 500 to 12,000 pax. These halls are highly preferred venues for holding the world’s sought-after expositions, concerts, shows, banquets, conferences, etc. In the run-up to the mega event, Expo 2020, DWTC will be adding 15,500 sq mtr of space. Besides this, the new 438-hectare space for the Expo that is coming up at Dubai Trade Centre in Jebel Ali for the Expo will be a major game-changer for the emirate. “Quite a substantial facility is being built at the venue with focus not just on Expo 2020, but beyond the event as well. The design is being done up in a way that would be useful for international trade shows as well as conferences after the Expo,” said Jakobsen.

Dubai has over 93,000 hotel rooms for catering to the swarm of delegates who attend the many events held in the city. Each hotel in Dubai is iconic. Almost every global hotel brand has is present in the city, including industry giants such as Hilton, InterContinental, and Starwood Hotels & Resorts. These global brands join home-grown Emaar Hotels and Resorts, which launched in 2005, with the opening of its Address properties, followed in 2013 by its Vida boutique hotels. Of course, the most renowned Dubai-owned hotels belong to the Jumeirah Group, which has set the standards, not just in the region, but across the globe. The iconic Burj Al Arab is often referred to as the only ‘seven-star hotel’ in the world, and, to prove a point, is the perennial Global Luxury winner in the World Luxury Hotel Awards. The colossal Atlantis The Palm - with 1,539 hotel rooms, 21 restaurants and bars, 5,600 sq mtr of meeting space, ShuiQi spa, N’Dulge nightclub, 1.4 km of private beach, an aquarium, a lagoon in which visitors can swim with dolphins, as well as the awesome Aquaventure Waterpark - is a preferred family ‘destination’, located right on the tip of the crescent on Palm Jumeirah.

JW Marriott Marquis is a fairly new hotel, but is the new architectural marvel of Dubai with palm-shaped twin towers, soaring 355 mtr. This is the tallest hotel in the world. Along with 1,608 suites and rooms, and cutting-edge business facilities, the hotel features more than 7,500 sq mtr of indoor and outdoor events space, including two ballrooms, and a large selection of world-class dining and entertainment options.

Opportunities for Leisure
Dubai has unparalleled offerings for relaxation, leisure, and team-building activities, etc., for business travellers. The city is a potpourri of heritage and modernity. Where else can one spend the morning on the beach, the afternoon snow skiing, and the evening camel riding on the desert? Where else can one dive with sharks at a shopping mall and watch dancing fountains at the base of the world’s tallest tower?

A heritage trail to the old Dubai, the Deira area takes travellers to the history of Dubai and its evolution into a world-class city. The bustling souqs of Dubai still hold their charm and offer an altogether different shopping experience. A visit to the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) and an interaction with the head of the institution would aid the understanding of the local culture, history, and people.

Dubai, as a destination, is constantly reinventing itself. The only thing that is constant here is change, literally! An additional 15,000 to 18,000 hotel rooms will be built, especially in the mid-market segment, in the next three years. Adding to the attractions in the emirate will be new theme parks by Legoland, a Bollywood Park, and a Motion Gate Park in the next couple of years.

TRADE SPEAK

Steen Jakobsen, Director, Dubai Business Events

From a business events perspective, our goals are very clear. We aim to make Dubai the world’s premier destination for business events and increase the number of international meetings held here every year. The trust extended to Dubai and the UAE by holding Expo 2020 here is also a testament to the fact that we are capable of hosting even the largest and most complex international events. This also speaks about Dubai as a business events destination. If we can successfully host the Expo, which I am sure we will, we can host meetings, conferences and exhibitions of any size and any scale.



Indian Trade Participants

Suresh Puri, CEO, Spice Travel (Mumbai)

Dubai holds great potential to be the number-one MICE destination. The emirate has its own unique advantages and characteristics. There are iconic buildings, hotels, etc. There have been increasing trends in travel to Dubai for incentives, leisure, etc., from India over the last few years. Now they want to grow this market with a focused approach. They have put their systems in place, and are also investing in new products and attractions. They have been able to showcase the diverse aspects of the destination during this Mission, which was quite useful.

Jnanesh Upponi, CEO, Fountainhead Corporate Journeys

During the Missions, Dubai was showcased in a different way, which was really encouraging. The entire emirate and its facets were shown to us. I have never had the opportunity to see some of these places before. We handle a lot of award events and other group events every year. The exposure received during this trip will help us look at Dubai, which has really good infrastructure, from a fresh perspective. The proximity of Dubai to India and excellent connectivity also works to its advantage. The city offers excellent nightlife as well.

Wilfred Selvaraj, Director & COO, Mapp Your Tours (Chennai)

This Study Mission by Dubai Business Events was an eye-opener in many respects. We have been selling Dubai to group travellers from South India for the last 20 years. However, we ourselves were unaware of the many newer aspects of the destination. This event familiarised us with the same. While visiting places during the trip, I could visualise many opportunities in the destination. Seaplane, for example, is one such product, which many do not know about. We can probably do much more now than before.

 
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