x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 21 January 2018

Dubai seeks to cut airfares and hotel rates

Prices will be reduced as part of a new strategy to counter the global economic slowdown.

Tourism authorities in Dubai will aim to reduce airline ticket and hotel prices as part of a new strategy to deal with the global economic slowdown, according to officials.

Discussions were already taking place with Emirates Airline, said Khalid Ahmed bin Sulayem, the director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTMC). Hotel rates, which have been among the highest in the world with an average room rate of US$283 (Dh1,039) last year, will also be revised.

Mr Sulayem said the strategy would be completed soon and launched in time for next month's Dubai Shopping Festival. It will remain in place until the end of next year.

Dubai Shopping Festival organisers said last week they were shifting tactics in the wake of the global credit crunch, hoping to lure shoppers with bigger discounts and targeting visitors from the GCC and Asia, rather than Europe.

So far, Middle East tourism appears to be weathering the global slowdown, although analysts believe that next year could prove to be more difficult.

Earlier this month, a study by the international consultant, Deloitte, predicted that growth in the number of tourists visiting the UAE next year would ease to 5 per cent, down from anticipated growth of 15 per cent this year.

Tourism in Dubai depends mainly on new and ever-more-spectacular attractions, with the emirate reinventing itself by developing new projects. But those kinds of projects, which are expensive and time-consuming to build, may be difficult to complete on schedule because of the global economic crisis.

Tatweer, developers of Dubailand, one of the emirate's biggest and most important planned tourist attractions, has said the project is being reviewed because of worsening economic conditions. "We will make an announcement in two to four weeks if we are to revise our projects," Khalid al Malik, the chief executive of the company, said yesterday. For the time being, Dubailand, which the emirate hopes will attract 40,000 visitors annually, remained unchanged, he said. "We are maintaining it in this period. As we look at the situation we will get an idea of the picture. The projects for now are still on target."

The review of tourism projects is proceeding alongside the tourism department's new look at its activities. The DTMC held a special meeting this week with leading company executives in the tourism sector to discuss the new strategy.

"Across our global network, Emirates promotes Dubai as a destination via a wide range of marketing activity. With the upcoming Dubai Shopping Festival for instance, we are offering very attractive packages to travellers worldwide, to encourage them to come visit Dubai, and even giving excess baggage allowances for them to bring back their shopping," a spokesman for Emirates said. "As for fares, these fluctuate based on a number of factors, including whether it is peak travel season or not. Having said that, in recent months, Emirates has adjusted its fares downwards, in line with the lowering of fuel prices."

The luxury hotel operator Jumeirah Group, based in Dubai, declined to comment on their rates until the DTMC plan was revealed. Mr Sulayem said the new strategy would complement the year-round marketing efforts of DTMC through road shows, exhibitions and advertising campaigns in various parts of the world. "The plan will also include inviting a number of representatives of major tourism companies from international source markets... to foster co-operation with their counterparts in the tourism industry in Dubai." Dubai hopes to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2015, up from 7.7m last year.