TOP-DRAWER TOURISM DESTINATION

Abu Dhabi 2019 | CULTURE & TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Saif Saeed Ghobash, Undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) Abu Dhabi, on becoming a beacon of cultural tourism, tailoring its approach to different markets, and penetrating the MICE segment.

Saif Saeed Ghobash
BIOGRAPHY
Saif Saeed Ghobash was appointed Undersecretary of DCT Abu Dhabi in March 2016. Ghobash brings a wealth of knowledge and experience from the spheres of strategic development, investment, and media affairs. He has held numerous senior executive positions and was previously a member of several key government entities. He was previously a Director in the Office of Strategic Affairs at the Crown Prince Court and also served as acting CEO and COO at Abu Dhabi Media. Having earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, he then went on to obtain an Executive MBA from IMD.

What new strategic channels is DCT looking at to further increase Abu Dhabi's attractiveness both for residents and visitors?

From 2018, DCT Abu Dhabi will continue to build on Abu Dhabi's branding efforts through a major creative destination campaign backed both by an extensive and targeted media strategy and close collaboration between Abu Dhabi's offerings and industry players in business tourism and accessibility. In the leisure tourism segment, the priority remains maintaining the development of new products and improving visitors' experiences. To meet this dual goal, new channels include digital itinerary trip planning, mosque tours, a new Jebel Hafeet trail, and a new investment booklet that will outline the tourism investment opportunities in Abu Dhabi, along with directions on how to proceed with investment. Moreover, digital innovations are crucial to increasing the attractiveness of Abu Dhabi and enhancing guests' experiences. We are also investing in augmented reality technology, which we plan to use at Qasr Al Hosn, and have launched a new Abu Dhabi Culture app that acts as an exhaustive repository of relevant cultural information in the UAE capital. Our events calendar is also a critical factor, with our events bureau continuing to develop a pipeline of recurring private sector-led events by means of the Abu Dhabi Advantage Events incentive scheme. The goal consists of securing between seven and nine new, multi-year content-relevant events during peak travel periods of key source markets—the UAE, GCC, China, and India—which can also be integrated into DCT-led industry platforms. Increasing opportunities for family entertainment is also a firm part of our plans, and Louvre Abu Dhabi is an important step in establishing the Emirate as a beacon of cultural tourism, especially given newly developed cultural attractions such as Bait Al Oud and selected developments on Sir Bani Yas Island. At the same time, the opening of Warner Bros. World also demonstrates our commitment to consistently adding world-class attractions to our overall proposition.

How can Abu Dhabi strike a balance between targeting visitors from the East and the Emirate's cultural and natural attractions that are historically catered more for Western tourists?

We strike this balance by utilizing our deep understanding of each of our target markets and tailoring our approach accordingly by considering the make-up and requirements of each nationality and how they interact with different types of content and media channels. Within this country-specific tailoring, we also use the available technological innovations to change the 'message' according to not only nationality, but also to individual users. We also ensure we are aware of the drivers of any particular market, namely what would potentially pique their interest in Abu Dhabi, what would make them take that interest to the next level and consider a trip here, and understanding the triggers that would work most effectively to change that 'consideration' into a concrete decision to visit.

How can Abu Dhabi's tourism industry combine efforts to drive forward the Emirate's ambition to become a leading destination for MICE tourism?

The growing appeal of the city as a destination of choice for leading international associations can be mainly attributed to the top-drawer services and facilities offered all across the Emirate, as well as the tourist experiences for when business is done for the day. Thus, when we target potential MICE clients across the world, we combine these experiences in our messaging. On the business front itself, DCT Abu Dhabi is working with its partners on a new strategy to penetrate corporate business events, leveraging the large meeting room capacity of Abu Dhabi's hotel properties, as well as targeting the development of leisure packages and offers for business tourism. This would increase benefits from business events hosted in the Emirate, develop the healthcare sector's value proposition, position Abu Dhabi as a top destination for corporate MICE events, and increase membership activity in international industry
associations.