New hotels turn to cabbies to drive business

Taxi drivers are invited to newly opened hotels to familiarise them with locations of new properties.

New hotels in Dubai are courting taxi drivers as they look for alternative ways to promote their brands in an increasingly competitive market. The Media One Hotel, in Dubai Media City, and Gold Swiss-Belhotel, in Bur Dubai, have invited taxi drivers to their properties to familiarise them with the hotels and their locations. Both four-star establishments opened in October.

Hotels in Dubai have cut rates and become more innovative in their marketing as demand has dropped and new properties have opened for business, resulting in about a 35 per cent decline in revenue per available room last year. "In the current circumstances where a lot of new hotels are opening in Dubai, obviously it does become a challenge even for taxi drivers to be aware that these hotels are opening up," said Deepak Dahiya, the director of sales and marketing at Gold Swiss-Belhotel Dubai.

"We are pretty pleased with the results that we have seen coming back from the campaign. Most taxi drivers are now aware of our hotel as the word of mouth has spread." The hotel brought in about 2,200 taxi drivers and gave them "healthy snack packs". Mr Dahiya said that as well as raising brand awareness, there was the possibility that taxi drivers might recommend the hotel's services and food outlets to their customers.

"If tomorrow someone gets in and says 'I want to get a kebab', a taxi driver might recommend our kebab restaurant because they came here and were briefed about it." The Media One Hotel said it had also worked with the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and welcomed about 700 taxi drivers for coffee and croissants over two days in October, and that this had generated business for the hotel. "We have actually had taxi drivers turn up with guests who have said 'take me to a hotel'. We have picked up quite a few bookings from that, which is pleasantly surprising," said Richard Senior, the director of sales and marketing at the Media One Hotel.

"They have just turned up with guests, and they said they came for coffee and a croissant and they wanted to bring the guest here. We have not offered any commission. "The aim of it wasn't to generate business for us. It was to make sure that when we had guests coming to the hotel from the airport or from different places in Dubai, taxi drivers knew where to find us." But some taxi drivers said they had been offered commissions for taking guests to particular hotels.

"I have dropped several passengers to hotels in Deira, Bur Dubai and new Dubai areas and I have been paid commission ranging between Dh50 and Dh150," said one Dubai taxi driver, who wanted to remain anonymous. "It really depends on the kind of hotel you take your customer to. We usually ask them what sort of budget they have." "We don't force hotels to give us commissions; its them who approach us to bring in customers," said another driver, who works night shifts at the airport with Dubai Taxi.

Only smaller hotels had previously approached cab drivers at the airport for extra business but now even some of the bigger hotels were approaching the drivers, he said. The RTA said it was unaware that its taxi drivers had been accepting bonuses from hotels. Mr Dahiya said the hotel was not using taxi drivers as a "sales team" and would not offer commissions. "We haven't drawn out any formal policy on that," he said. "When we were speaking with RTA at the launch of this campaign, there was no clear indication whether we should engage in this or not and for very obvious reasons we would not want to be seen as doing something which was not considered to be in the normal form of business practices.

"A lot of hotels are probably thinking on the same lines as we are and trying to engage in an activity that brings out their name." * with additional reporting by Sarmad Khan