Dubai is no doubt one of the world’s top tourism destinations, a city of luxury and culture. But how are African countries strategizing to entice the Emiratis to also explore their tourism havens?
The United Arab Emirates experience a surge in temperatures between May and October, soaring to over 40°C. The heat and humidity drive the residents in search of cooler climates, with their summer exodus a tourism potential welcomed by the rest of the world.
Africa is projected to gain the most, globally, from the future tourism industry because of the continent’s unique cultural heritage and natural resources. At least 7 African countries namely Seychelles, The Gambia, South Africa, Uganda, Rwanda, Egypt and Morocco took part in the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) 2019 between April 28 – May 1 in Dubai so as to win new visitors.
UAE, a virgin market
“They said, wow Gambia, you are here!” Ida Jeng Njie, Director International Tourism, Gambia Tourism Board shared the surprise reaction which her team received “because they (the Emiratis) do not expect any country from West Africa here.”
“This is a virgin market for the Gambia, so we cannot say that we are targeting only this. We are welcoming everybody,” Njie added.
The West African country has stepped up efforts by opening a tourism office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
MICE travel is the in-thing
Given her coastal position, The Gambia is hoping to appeal, especially, to the adventurers. Like almost all exhibitors that Africanews spoke to, “the smiling coast” also hopes to tap into MICE travel (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions) as it is reported that it is where the new money is.
Down south, Zimbabwe is “trying to push MICE tourism as much as we can from this part of the world because, this has become the centre of business in the world,” said Godfrey Koti, Head of corporate affairs, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority.
He added, “we are targeting those kind of people to come and have business conferences in Zimbabwe and to do their business in Zimbabwe as well.”
Under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe is trying to sell itself as open for business and investment. The country is famously known for Victoria Falls but they say that they have more to offer, especially, to families and other types of tourists.
“Come and see what are are about,” says Mr. Koti.
Arab travellers want luxury and good food – keep it halal
Uganda has a 10-year tourism master plan which involves consolidating the existing market, first. The Arab Market has been earmarked as key in the diversification phase to seek new markets.
“We have recruited and deployed a destination market representative firm in the Gulf States …within the realm of expansion, we have the GCC on our radar and that is a policy now,” James Lutalo, a director in Uganda’s Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife and Antiquities told Africanews.
He noted that most interested clients had questions about services for family, halal food and the number of visitors from the UAE.
For exhibitors from North Africa, it was a case of show me, do not tell me.
Morocco carried an “authentic” cultural experience to Dubai and for this, they were awarded for the best stand, beating 2800 exhibitors of the ATM 2019 to the prize.
Egypt, on the other hand, demonstrated that it has more than just pyramids; showcasing crowd-pulling live music, a 3-D deep-diving experience under water and an array of hotels for prospective clients to chose from.