UAE's coolest winter campaign to target international visitors, minister says

Minister with responsibility for the 'world’s coolest winter’ campaign is bullish about the future despite rising Covid-19 cases

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Related: Ruler of Dubai hails winter tourism push as 950,000 visitors deliver Dh1 billion boost to hospitality sector

The UAE's successful "world's coolest winter" campaign will focus on  international tourists once global lockdowns are lifted, a minister of state told The National.

The seasonal promotion was the first unified tourism campaign launched by all seven emirates and encouraged domestic tourists to explore the hidden gems of the UAE.
It ended this week after a 45-day run and attracted nearly a million domestic tourists and created Dh1 billion in revenue.

Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises, and the man with responsibility for the campaign, said future promotions will aim at the lucrative international segment while also trying to attract repeat visits from residents.

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The challenge for us going forward is having repeat customers

He said rising Covid-19 case numbers would not tarnish the UAE's tourism sector because of the country's vaccination programme and strong healthcare system. 
"We really believe that there's potential for this national tourism identity to be used predominantly for long-haul travellers who would not travel for 12 hours to spend three days in one emirate, but would rather spend five to seven days across all emirates," Mr Al Falasi said.

He said another issue was ensuring repeat visits from domestic tourists. He said tour operators used to dealing with foreign tourists could handle more domestic trips.

"If you and I wanted to go to Hatta or to Khor Fakkan, we're not going to call a tour agent to take us there. The challenge is how can we find the right mechanism to put together a promotion with these tour operators to have them handle domestic tourists as well."

Ahmad Al Falasi, Minister of State for Entrepreneurship and Small and Medium Enterprises, wants more tour operators involved in the domestic tourism market. 

Dubai, meanwhile, updated its travel rules after a surge in coronavirus case numbers. Despite the rising daily infection rates, Mr Falasi is bullish about the UAE's future as a tourism destination.

“Things are still under control and people are able to move around freely,” he said. “As a percentage of population, the UAE today is second when it comes to vaccinations and the first when it comes to testing, and that goes a long way.

“As and when travel is eased, tourists will predominantly think of areas where they still feel safe, and I believe that travellers will want to go to a location that has great access, great infrastructure and a great healthcare system."

Mr Al Falasi said it was important that individual emirates did not compete for the same market and this unified approach would support the aim to double the UAE’s domestic tourism revenue within the next 10 years. This year there was a 17 per cent increase in the number of hotel stays compared with last year, thanks to the campaign.

In the meantime, it is hoped that the new nationwide Emirates Tourism app will encourage domestic tourists to continue to explore their home country. The platform includes 275 offers at hotels, restaurants and attractions, with more businesses set to come on board.

The next campaign starts on December 15 and Mr Falasi anticipates it will be more of a challenge as global lockdowns are lifted and residents can choose to travel abroad.

"We've seen the campaign for the launch of the Khor Fakkan amphitheatre – that was a new addition. We've seen also seen Rumailah Farm in Fujairah which was announced and was also very popular," he said, referring to new attractions in the UAE people can visit.

"I think the challenge for us ... is having repeat customers, and that requires some effort from the domestic tourism authorities to develop their offerings," he said. "They will need to be constantly updated to keep people coming back."

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