Jan. 12, 2015

HE Helal Saeed Almarri

UAE, Dubai

HE Helal Saeed Almarri

Director General, Dubai’s Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing


Helal Saeed Almarri is the Director General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM). Under this mandate, his role entails leading the planning, supervision and development of sustainable tourism as an economic enabler for Dubai through enhanced partnerships with industry, and active government and public participation. Additionally, Almarri is responsible for reinforcing Dubai’s growing global significance as the key business hub and networking platform for the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. He also heads the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), which is the region’s largest business and consumer event, exhibition, and conference hosting and organizing group.

Tourism is one of the main sources of revenue in the UAE. How much has it grown over the past few years?

It is difficult to accurately calculate the revenue generated by the tourism industry; however, we estimate that tourism contributed in the range of AED75 billion toward Dubai's GDP in 2012. Our target for 2020 is to triple this so that the industry is contributing in the range of AED215 billion-AED230 billion.

How is Dubai's Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) planning to further boost this sector?

The Dubai Vision 2020 includes the headline targets of welcoming 20 million visitors per year and trebling the contribution tourism makes to the economy compared to its contribution in 2012. Reaching our target of welcoming 20 million visitors a year by 2020 requires annual growth of between 7% and 9%. Achieving growth in visitor numbers will come from three areas: maintaining the market share across our existing source markets; achieving growth in a number of markets that we have identified as having high growth potential; and increasing the number of repeat visitors. The 2013 figures—the first annual results since we announced the Vision—show that we have made significant progress with 10.6% growth in visitor numbers YoY and positive growth across all other key indicators, including hotel revenues and visitor spending. There is a very detailed strategy that sets out how we will achieve the Vision 2020 targets and takes into account increased competition leading to more choice for tourists as well as the importance of social media and digital channels affecting the way people research, choose, and plan their holidays.

What are some of your key priorities at the DTCM?

A key part of our role at DTCM is to ensure people understand Dubai's destination offering and get a sense of what it is really like. A significant part of this is bridging the perception gap and telling a broader story. To give one small example, we recently staged the first Dubai Food Festival as a means of highlighting our impressive gastronomy offer. From Michelin-star chefs to quality street food, we have some of the world's largest brands such as Nobu and Hakkassan to home-grown brands, which are now making waves internationally. Our food offerings can be a major pull factor for tourists, but it is something we have previously undersold. In terms of increasing our destination offering, we will work closely with public-private partnerships (PPPs) to achieve three priority objectives. First, we want to establish Dubai as the leading destination for families, events, and business. HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice-President and Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, has stated his desire for the UAE to become the world's number one family destination, and Dubai will lead the way in this regard, continuing to enhance its already strong family offer. To give one example, the GCC provides a number of our top-10 source markets, including Saudi Arabia, which is our number one market. It is well known—and supported by research—that Saudi Arabian visitors to Dubai largely travel in families and like to stay close to shopping malls and entertainment centers. This naturally leads us to consider what accommodation we have to fit these requirements and suggests that we may require more hotel apartments in these locations (hotel apartments providing opportunities for families to stay together). We have already announced a joint initiative with Dubai Municipality with financial incentives for the hotel investment community to develop more hotels in the three- and four-star segment. And as we recognize that in order to achieve the targeted visitor growth, we need to increase our accommodation options across all budget points. We also need to ensure that we continue to increase the choice of attractions, experiences, and events for families.