GET WITH IT

Dubai 2020 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

Millennial travelers are the mainstay of hip hotel brand dusitD2, and they bring a refreshed focus on art.

Bassam Zakaria
BIOGRAPHY

Bassam Zakaria graduated from the University of Damascus and the Cyprus Institute of Marketing with an MBA in business administration and management. He has gained experience in various fields of hotel management and has worked with major hotel chains such as Hilton Worldwide, Rotana and Millennium Hotels and Resorts over the past 19 years. Zakaria has led many positions involving various management roles such as director of sales and marketing, director of rooms, deputy general manager, as well as general manager at Dusit. He has been honored with several prestigious awards for his out-of-the-box and results-driven approach, such as the Youngest GM Award, Authentic Leader of the Year, the Livcom Organization Award, and many more.

What makes Dusit stand out in the increasingly competitive Dubai tourism market?
dusitD2 reflects the needs and desires of the second-generation traveler. We offer a refreshing take on destination chic, and we are a contemporary and trendy hotel, perfectly suited for the savvy modern traveler. Currently, around 76% of travelers are millennials, and as we represent this market, we keep close tabs on millennials' needs and expectations. This can be seen in all aspects of our business, from the hotel's strategic location in Barsha, close to offices and universities, to our minimalistic design, our staff's friendly approach and casually designed uniforms, and the various second generation-catered philosophies of our F&B outlets. One of our strategies to stay relevant that sets us apart from similar properties is that we hire young. Young staff members bring about fresh ideas, passions, and motivation that only add more value to our brand offering.

How do you anticipate Expo 2020 impacting both tourism and the overall economy?
We are watching the developments of Expo 2020 closely. We seek to ensure that we position ourselves correctly in order to attract our share of the 25 million expected visitors. We are working to become one of the official hotel partners of the Expo, though this is not yet an official designation. The tourism and hospitality sector is looking forward to Expo 2020 by announcing more projects to meet the rising demands of tourist inflow; but this means that with an increase of demand, comes an increase in the supply of hotels, keeping the industry as competitive as ever.

What else is in the Dusit pipeline?
For a while, dusitD2 was considered to be an art hub for many artists, and we are working to revive this status. We hosted an art week in October, dedicated to reactivating the art community in Dubai and going back to our roots of being an art-focused hotel. As part of this interactive week, we organized multiple workshops, hosted major artists who painted live at the property, as well as dedicated a day for kids to get in touch with their artistic side and give talented, young individuals the opportunity to display their skills and learn more. We also plan to expand into the UK. We are hopeful that Europe will be our next big destination.

Have you noticed a shift in the composition of tourists to Dubai?
When I first arrived in Dubai in late 2002, 70% of tourists were from specific European countries. Today, Dubai's popularity as a tourist destination is only set to grow in the coming years with its year-round calendar of festivals, events, shopping experiences, and the city's rapid expansion. Dubai is no longer just a beach or luxury mall destination; it is a talent magnet. Now, a visitor can engage in new and diverse activities with the innovative tools and skill building opportunities that Dubai has to offer, such as Dubai Creative Zone, which provides the perfect entrepreneurial-spirited environment for tech innovators and startups. A great deal of focus of Dubai's tourism and destination management is now on Asian markets, which represent a large portion of all global tourism. China would be the number-one source, with Japan and South Korea following. The GCC also represents a great deal of travelers, and we are the regional hub for short- to medium-term trips for travelers around the GCC. Our properties also focus on attracting travelers from CIS countries, Eastern Europe, and Scandinavia. In addition to millennial business travelers, our target audience comes to Dubai to be culturally educated, inspired, and enriched by discovering new regions and learning new things. Many major universities around the world have opened campuses in Dubai, and this attracts numerous millennials who end up staying with us on a long-term basis; they are the marginal percentage of our overall occupants.