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July 6, 2009

Dubai needs to lose ‘luxury’ tag says DMC

Dubai’s image as a ‘luxury’ destination is proving damaging to its potential to bring in corporate and association meetings business in today’s more austere financial climate.


Patrick Delaney and Padriac Gilligan, managing directors of global destination management company Ovation, which is part of MCI, said that while the extravagant five-star reputation of the destination was in demand before the economic crisis, today many clients (in particular financial firms) were being turned off by it.


“[Companies] are afraid to go and access that luxury because they don’t want to find themselves on the front page of the paper due to having organised the classic ‘corporate junket’ to Dubai,” said Gilligan.


“The major trend right now is a move away from luxury,” agreed Delaney. “Luxury is not a word that either pharmaceuticals, associations or anybody wants right now. Today, everybody wants to be associated with doing the right thing in the right business environment, at the right price.”


Prices at five-star hotels have dropped dramatically in recent months making Dubai a much more accessible destination for large meetings business. Ovation is taking this as an opportunity to focus on bringing association meetings to the emirate by presenting the destination as a prime centre for doing business. “It can be challenging to change the perception if the destination has positioned itself as the archetypal luxurious destination, but that’s what we’re working against now,” said Gilligan.


“It’s about marketing the destination - this is a great opportunity for the UAE to re-position itself,” said Delaney. “We’re moving away from Dubai the luxury experience, and we’re looking towards Dubai as the centre to which you can provide other solutions. We need to get away from the perception of ‘this is where you go to have a really luxurious leisure time’ and towards, ‘this is a prime business environment – this is the place where an association can meet its goals, have an important congress and share knowledge’.”


While Europe has traditionally been the main source market for UAE meetings business, Ovation believes there is huge potential to be had from the Far East, in particular China.


“We have just come back from Beijing, Shanghai and Macau as we have offices in each of those cities, and the response there to this region has been very good,” said Delaney.


One benefit is that in the Far East there are no inbuilt perceptions of Dubai to overcome. “There’s much less resistance there than there is in the more traditional markets where Dubai has a very strong image and probably has a very one-dimensional image. They are motivated by the fact they haven’t been here and they don’t have the same biases there.”

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