‘Virtual’ Dubai sunshine campaign launched to attract more UK holidaymakers
LONDON // Commuters in the UK capital can catch a virtual glimpse of Dubai’s sunshine, thanks to a marketing campaign unveiled on Sunday.
For many Londoners, this summer was characterised by the “Brexit blues”, erratic weather and disruption on the overcrowded railways.
But the grey skies cleared for those who strapped on a virtual reality (VR) headset at a stand at London Waterloo station, installed as part of a Dubai Tourism push to attract more British holidaymakers.
The week-long campaign – dubbed Here Today, Dubai -Tomorrow – uses technology to recreate some of Dubai’s top attractions, and includes a daily competition to win a holiday to the emirate.
Visitors can play a game where they catch the letters of the word “Dubai” hidden in virtual representations of the city’s landmarks, while a large video screen gives the illusion of camels walking through the concourse of the Waterloo station.
More than 1,000 people had interacted with the campaign in the first six hours on Sunday, with many more picking up free cardboard VR viewers to watch the 360-degree videos of attractions such as Dubai Fountain and Emirates Golf Club.
Kat Ovsyannykova, 25, strapped on a VR headset at the Waterloo stand and liked what she saw.
“The VR is absolutely insane. It’s different, it’s interactive, it’s a really nice stand,” she said.
Dubai’s drive to attract UK tourists comes at a time when holidays abroad have become more expensive for Britons.
The value of the pound has fallen more than 10 per cent against the US dollar since Britons voted on June 23 to leave the European Union. That means that UK tourists’ money no longer goes as far in the UAE.
But Ms Ovsyannykova, a Ukrainian who lives in Surrey, was unfazed, saying that she planned to visit Dubai soon.
“A currency exchange rate is not going to change my mind,” she said.
More than 1 million British tourists visited Dubai last year. According to Dubai Tourism, the number of British visitors in the first seven months of this year rose 4 per cent from the same period last year.
Issam Kazim, the chief executive of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing, expected “stable volumes” of UK visitors to Dubai in the wake of the Brexit vote. But he acknowledged that the effect of the UK’s exit from the EU would have to be studied.
“The impact of Brexit will invariably need assessment in the medium to long term, but we believe that tourism – especially for Dubai with its well-rounded proposition and truly competitive global positioning – will continue to hold strong attractiveness for our UK visitors,” Mr Kazim said.
But not all visitors to the Dubai Tourism stand at London Waterloo station were as upbeat. Ferenc, 44, who did not give his surname, said he was interested in the VR technology at the stand – but not Dubai as a holiday destination. “It’s not going to make me want to visit. Dubai looks expensive,” he said.
He said the prospect of more costly flights and foreign currency was “a concern” after the Brexit vote.
But Eloise, 44, from Camden in North London, said Brexit would not put her off travelling abroad despite the pound’s declining value.
Her son Billy, 12, enjoyed the VR views of Dubai’s landmarks. Having entered the competition for a holiday in Dubai, he said he would take his mother with him if he won.
But another family will not be flying to Dubai any time soon.Tony Harrison, 78, said he used to visit the UAE regularly about 20 years ago. But he was no fan of the high-rise cities that have emerged in the Emirates.
“It was unspoilt. Now it’s just built up and it’s not cheap to visit,” he said.
His daughter Julie, 39, said destinations such as Marrakech were more appealing to her.
“I don’t like high-rise modern stuff. I want somewhere different,” she said.
“We don’t want to go somewhere where there are Starbucks and Ikeas everywhere.
“We want to go somewhere more authentic.”
Updated: September 5, 2016 04:00 AM