UAE-headquartered TIME Hotels, in partnership with BNC, has once again brought together a group of Generation Z teens to get their perspective on key travel and tourism issues at the second in its four-part series of round table events.
Students from GEMS Wellington International School, The Winchester School – Jebel Ali and Dubai English Speaking College discuss key trend and tourism issue at TIME Oak Hotel.
Its latest round table event session brought together 10 students, aged 17-18 years old, from, GEMS Wellington International School, The Winchester School – Jebel Ali and Dubai English Speaking College to discuss the appeal of Dubai as a family holiday centre, and to share their insights on what the emirate can do to secure its place as a world-leading destination for family travel.
The emirate has a target of 20 million visitors by 2020, and has already witnessed a year-on-year increase of 7.5% from 2014 to 2015 according to DTCM figures, reaching 14.2 million visitors, which makes it the fourth most visited city in the world.
Currently, Dubai’s top three source markets are Saudi Arabia, the UK and India, and international overnight spend in the city last year saw tourism receipts totaling US$11.68 billion, according to the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index 2015.
“As Dubai continues to grow as a destination, it is welcoming families, in growing numbers, from every part of the world, and that means that our tourism product has to develop alongside visitor numbers, across every age group,” said Mohamed Awadalla, CEO, TIME Hotels.
Dubai already has an active year-round calendar of visitor events with a strong family focus, including the evergreen Summer Surprises season and Modhesh World, and a host of edutainment and entertainment activities such as the Dubai Aquarium, Burj Khalifa, KidZania, Aquaventure Water Park and Ski Dubai.
According to the Gen Z panel, when hosting their own visitors to the emirate, the beach, mall scene, water parks and desert are top-rated attractions, but they also highlighted the need for more theme park offerings as well as decrying the lack of green spaces and natural beauty found in other world leading leisure destinations.
The group of ‘third culture’ teens also flagged the black hole of fun things to do for their own age group (13 to early-20-year-olds), with the current line-up of activities centered on the under 12s and over 25s.
“When you see adverts for Dubai it’s become so generic. It’s just about shopping in malls, everything that has been here for a while, and there is nothing new in that. For example, the desert tourism and safaris aren’t in focus as much as they should be,” remarked Madmavi Kakulavarapu.
However, it is getting a lot right, said Nathan Sharples: “I have friends that come here because they like Dubai, not just to see friends. They are a family of five and they love Aquaventure, desert safaris, the malls.”
“One thing my visitors have enjoyed is the practicality. Grocery shops are open 24/7, malls are open late and restaurants serve until late. Small things like this just make it so much easier and remove some stress. People enjoy that. It’s so easygoing,” added Rosaline Daher.
In order to grow its market share, in terms of family tourism, the teens felt that Dubai still has some work to do, especially when considering the value for money aspect. Entry to popular waterparks for example costs around AED275 and that doesn’t include transport or lunch, which would probably add at least another AED50.
“Dubai is already seen as an expensive place but it has many things it can promote that aren’t so expensive. In Abu Dhabi they advertise tradition and culture and things that are unusual for visitors. If they concentrate on this, rather than just theme parks, malls and waterparks, it could be more attractive for families,” said Kakulavarapu.
Isbah Bandeali agreed, and added: “I think Dubai has a lot of activities people don’t know about like camping, surfing, sky diving and go-karting.”
Public transportation accessibility also came in for some criticism, with the group agreeing that the network needed to be expanded to make connectivity between key attractions easier, especially for tourists who do not rent cars during their stay.
The consensus on hotel facilities for teens and young adults was that Dubai’s leading hospitality brands need to tailor activities to suit this well-travelled and opinionated audience, with teen clubs a big draw.
Said Daher: “When I travel to France with my family, the [hotel] clubs there are great. You can make new friends early in the holiday and then the activities are there if you want them.”
“One really interesting aspect that was touched on was Dubai’s active social media strategy, with tags like #mydubai allowing people to share their experiences, and a great way to promote the emirate. With this tech savvy, but very social generation, there is definitely scope for us hoteliers to listen to their comments and bring them on board as brand ambassadors,” added Awadalla.