Dubai on charm offensive to lure UK tourists
The number of hotel guests from Britain fell more than 10 percent to 643,196, compared with 719,889 the previous year, according to figures from Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing.
Dubai is launching a £1 million (Dh5.8m) advertising campaign to try to change perceptions of the British towards the emirate as a holiday destination as visitor numbers from the United Kingdom decline.
Britain was the biggest feeder market of tourists to Dubai for many years. But although the total number of visitors to the emirate increased last year, the number of hotel guests from Britain fell more than 10 percent to 643,196, compared with 719,889 the previous year, according to figures from Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing. "We still believe there is more to be done here in the UK to really showcase the breadth of offering in Dubai," said Ian Scott, the tourism department's director for the UK and Ireland. "Our latest research revealed there are myths still prominent in people's perceptions of Dubai, so this consumer and trade activity will tackle these misconceptions head-on," Mr Scott said.
Negative perceptions identified among people in the UK who have never been to the emirate include the beliefs that Dubai has no cultural offerings; is all five-star luxury with few affordable options; is restrictive for tourists in terms of nightlife and dress; and is not suitable for families.
The tourism agency's campaign will include advertorials and online video interviews in which families that have been to Dubai talk about their experiences. "Dubai's growth as a tourist destination is a tribute to its progressive advertising and promotional campaigns," said Gaurav Sinha, the managing director of Insignia, a brand communications firm.
"I think it's important for Dubai to continue lifting the veil on the various attractions and unique offerings of the destination. There are many contradicting perceptions in the UK about Dubai which will be addressed by this initiative. The tabloid news culture within UK has over-sensationalised incidents which are far from the truth."
"I will not be surprised if the austere economic circumstances within the UK have been pivotal to the weakened spirit of overseas travel by its citizens," Mr Sinha said. "VisitBritain has actively promoted staycations, with politicians and celebrities alike setting examples by taking domestic holidays." Hoteliers agree that the weakness in the UK economy has played a role in the dip in the visitor flows from Britain.
"Yes, there has been a noticeable decline from there," said Habib Khan, the general manager of the Arabian Courtyard hotel in Dubai. "The decline is not to Dubai only; the decline is generally. Outbound has declined. People are trying to save money."
Dubai was previously promoted largely as a luxury, five-star destination, but the emirate has shifted its tourism marketing strategy in recent years, with prices of hotels also falling sharply from their peaks and far more budget accommodation on offer. This has helped Dubai to appeal to a larger range of tourists, particularly from emerging markets.
Strong growth in tourism from Saudi Arabia and India to Dubai last year meant that those countries overtook the UK as the emirate's largest and second-largest sources of tourists. Britain slipped to third place. Hotels have in part attributed the surge in business last year to the Arab Spring, as tourist flows were diverted from countries including Egypt and Bahrain to the UAE.
Dubai enjoyed an overall increase of 10 percent in the number of hotel guests in the emirate last year over the previous year, reporting a total of 9.3 million tourists. The average length of stay rose 12 percent to 3.6 days, while revenue grew by 20 percent last year to Dh16 billion, according to figures from the tourism department.