At Akwaaba, Dubai tourism reaffirms commitment to Nigerian market
Since the unification of the UAE’s seven emirates in 1972, when Ras Al Khaimah finally joined Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain and Fujairah to form a federation, the country has made its mark in the world as a leading tourism destination. UAE has also seen the creation of airlines, such as Emirates and Etihad Airways, airports, a metro station, shopping malls, theme parks, resorts and other major attractions.
To Christopher Hewett, senior consultant at TRI Hospitality Consulting, “the tourism industry has strengthened greatly, with improving occupancy in Dubai and Abu Dhabi on the back of the expanding network of Etihad Airways and Emirates airline.”
Once a small trading hub, Dubai today has risen to become an international tourism destination for leisure and business travellers as a result of the infrastructure developed to cater to these markets. And according to data by Dubai Chamber, the UAE’s tourism sector is expected to grow by 6.5 per cent annually between 2011 and 2021.
But even with the obvious success story so far, the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism) is still heavily investing and aggressively marketing Dubai to the world, especially in Africa.
Having participated in the Akwaaba Africa Travel Market for the first in 2015, Dubai Tourism seems determined to solidify its presence on the platform and by extension the African travel market. Unlike in 2015 when it participated with five companies, this year’s Akwaaba saw 10 different organisations from Dubai exhibit at the three-day travel market held at the Eko hotel & Suites, Vitoria Island, Lagos, with Dubai winning Best Stand Award at the trade show.
However, with Nigeria representing 56 per cent of total visitation from Africa to Dubai, the trend is clearly understandable.
“We are back again and we will continue to come back as long as Nigeria and West Africa in general continue to be interested in Dubai. Each time we come back, we bring new tour operators and companies with us; we have new things to tell you guys about new things that have opened up in Dubai since the one year that we were last year,” Stella Obinwa, Regional Director Africa for Dubai Tourism said.
The African continent continues to be a strong source market for visitors to Dubai. Nigeria, in particular, was amongst the top 20 source markets in 2015, with more than 127,000 overnight visitors arriving in the city. Strengthening its place as the preferred destination for African travellers, Dubai Tourism aims to use Africa’s premier travel trade show as a platform to showcase Dubai’s ever-expanding family entertainment venues and retail sector.
Alongside officials of Dubai Tourism at 2016 Akwaaba were representatives from Dubai Immigrations, Emirates Airline and IMG Worlds of Adventure, the world’s largest indoor theme park. There were a few of Dubai’s biggest tour companies and DMCs; Red Apple, North Tours, Alpha tours, Rena Tours and Arabian Falcon Holidays, the largest timeshare company in the Middle East. Incidentally, over 60 per cent of Arabian Falcon’s customers are Nigerian; they are very vested in the Nigerian market.
“Last year, I think we had five companies with us at Akwaaba and this year, we had 10. I think it has a lot to do with the investment they saw that the others benefited when they came. Also, remember last year was the first time Dubai Tourism stepped out into Africa to do something, so, everyone was a little bit scared and hesitant. But now, they are gaining more and more confidence and they do more and more with us,” Obinwa noted.
On the importance of a platform such as Akwaaba Africa Travel Market to Dubai as a leading destination, she observed, “you would find that the higher echelon, they have an opportunity to go wherever they want in the world, but they have certain perception of Dubai. B
ut since coming to Akwaaba and letting the average travel agency know that they too can have access to book their customers to Dubai, we’ve seen an upsurge in the clientele from the very wealthy and also the youth; the youth now know it’s affordable. There’s this perception of Dubai being about luxury and everything is expensive; that’s not the case. So, since coming to Akwaaba, the companies have been able to meet the travel agents one on one,” she said.
Though the economic situation in Nigeria has impacted on the visitation numbers and revenue of Dubai, the agency remains committed to the Nigerian market.
“A lot of the luxury hotels that are used to having Nigerian clientele are asking, ‘when are the Nigerians coming back? Nigerians are big spenders, so, when you lose one, you lose a hefty chunk. It’s a cycle; every country goes through recession, economic changes and you just have to be able to ride it out and stay relevant in the market so that when things are good, they will remember and come to visit you,” Obinwa said.