Dubai's Hala China initiative, jointly launched by property developers Meraas and Dubai Holding earlier this year, signed its first strategic agreements to boost visitors from China, whose numbers in Dubai surged 41 per cent last year.
Meraas announced on Sunday the establishment of Hala China board of directors with a broad range of expertise from the tourism industry and the wider economy, leveraging opportunities in travel, trade and investment sectors. As part of the initiative, a dedicated Mandarin Chinese hotline and concierge service that can be accessed by all Chinese speakers visiting Dubai will be set up to provide tourist information about the city to Chinese visitors.
The development comes ahead of a tour of the UAE by China's president Xi Jinping this week in one of the largest state visits the country has ever hosted.
Dubai-based Emirates Airline was appointed official carrier for Hala China, with plans to develop attractive packages and privileges for Chinese speakers across its seven routes from China. Payment services company Union Pay will be the preferred payment partner for the initiative.
“Signing the initiative’s first strategic agreements is the first step towards achieving shared prosperity, and is both symbolic and significant in providing Hala China with a foundation upon which to build," said Abdulla Al Habbai, group chairman at Meraas.
Chinese visitors to Dubai surged to 764,000 in 2017, pushing the country to fifth spot among the emirate's global source markets, after the UAE eased visa rules for Chinese nationals.
Hala China is focused on creating an annual schedule of experiences and tourism packages catering to Chinese visitors, across seven categories – stay, shop, eat, play, explore, wellness and concierge, Meraas said.
Other organisations to join the initiative include Dubai Parks & Resorts, Bank of China, China Everbright, China CYTS Tours and Sino-Union Reserve Investment. The remit of the partners spans banking, finance, travel, tourism, marketing, technology, entertainment and the environment, and will result in direct investment, Meraas said.
Hala China will be chaired by Majid Al Mualla, divisional senior vice president, commercial operations centre at Emirates Airline. He said the new hotline was an important step forward.
“Language is often one of the biggest obstacles business and leisure travellers face ... in a new place. In creating a dedicated service for Chinese speakers, we aim to make it easier for visitors to experience more of what Dubai has to offer,” he said.