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Friday, 21 April, 2017, 11 : 55 AM [IST]

DMC Royal Arabian taps Tier-II cities

Akansha Pandey & Anurag Tiwari

Dubai-based Destination Management Company (DMC) Royal Arabian Destination Management, approved by Dubai Tourism, successfully concluded its UAE-India Roadshows across three Indian cities i.e. Lucknow, Nagpur and Vadodara on March 27, 29 and 31, respectively. The company is planning to conduct the second leg of its India roadshow covering new cities in September this year. Talking exclusively to TravelBiz Monitor on the company’s future plans, Naveen Saldanha, MD, Royal Arabian Destination Management, said, “Royal Arabian will be organising another roadshow with more number of partners onboard. The roadshow will cover four to five new potential Tier-II and Tier-III Indian source markets. We have also expanded our sales force in India to work with increasing number of trade partners. Two new sales offices are being planned to be set up in Delhi and Mumbai, apart from the already existing offices in Bengaluru and Mangalore.”

An average of 100 travel agents and tour operators attended the roadshows across the three cities. The delegation at the roadshows, led by the DMC, comprised representatives from Dubai Business Events (DBE), Farah Leisure Parks Management, IMG Worlds of Adventure and Air Arabia, highlighting the unique experiences across UAE. They also stressed that the travel trade need to change the mindset of Indian travellers with regard to the length of stay, and not just restrict to Dubai and Abu Dhabi when travelling to UAE, but explore other emerging destinations as well.

Speaking at the roadshow, Richard Devadasan, GM-Business Development, Royal Arabian Destination Management, elaborated that the company was covering the Tier-II cities of Lucknow, Nagpur and Vadodara for the first time. The business is booming from these cities and as a DMC, they encouraged other partners to acknowledge these potential markets. Overall from India, Royal Arabian is observing an average length of stay of five days and USD 400-800 of average spent per person. The festive periods of Onam, Diwali and Durga Puja witness repeat FIT travel from India. He went on to add that India is a resilient market and the business is growing strong from states such as Maharashtra and Karnataka and from cities such as Kolkata, Delhi and Kochi in Kerala. From UAE, travel destinations of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Fujairah are seeing increasing travel from India.

Interacting with the local trade partners across three cities, he aptly questioned whether the trade is confusing packages with great travel experiences? He emphasised, “Royal Arabian do not sell tour packages, but creates and delivers unique bespoke travel experiences. UAE has continued to evolve in the tourism sector and India has been the major contributor to this growth. We are here to continue this trend and with the support of the Indian travel trade fraternity, we are ambitious of fulfilling our goals and continue increasing the number of Indian travellers to the Emirate. Through the events around the smaller towns, our aim is not only to promote the destination, but also clear the misconceptions about them. The destination is constructively competing across travel segments and is beyond regular experiences. Novel travel products such as desert camping, beach yoga, city walk, etc., are trending among our customers from India.”

The partners accompanied by Royal Arabian asserted the importance of spending power of the smaller Indian towns. Devadasan expressed that a large number of Indian travellers to the Emirate are from the Tier-II and Tier-III cities. Due to emergence of social media, people in the smaller towns are gaining knowledge about the destinations around the world and are willing to spend money to travel. In UAE, people are travelling to other destinations also apart from Dubai. Heritage tourism specially in the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, Ajman and Sharjah is gaining popularity among the travellers and Royal Arabian wants the biggest source market for Dubai i.e. India, to explore the untouched parts of the UAE. “India is one of the fastest growing outbound travel markets and as a destination promoter you cannot ignore the potential of the small Indian towns in terms of outbound travel and their pocket spend. Passion for travel is there, so is money spending power. We don’t see any reason why the numbers from Tier-II cities shouldn’t increase.”

Highlighting the affordability during the off season of summer months, Devadasan said that Indian travellers can opt for luxury experiences at competitive prices during the so-called off season. Even the shopping malls promote activities for families during Ramadan, he exclaimed.

The company has also observed that the trend of special interest group travel is on a rise from the Indian market. Travellers with similar interests such as reading, cooking, camping and association travel are growing big time from India. “Community travel is trending from India and will continue to rise along with millennial travel which is another burgeoning travel segment. Entertainment travel is also booming with a number of entertainment events taking place in the UAE which boasts of state-of-the-art infrastructure and value for money experiences. We will also be handling the South Indian International Movie Awards (SIIMA) in Abu Dhabi this year,” he added.

Established 13 years ago, Royal Arabian Destination Management specialises in leisure and MICE travel to the UAE and deals in facilitation of meet and greet service at the airport, hotel stays, hotel apartments, tourist visas, transfers, leisure tours and MICE travel and visits to educational institutions and all major tourist attractions.

Q. What are the trends among the Indian travellers and how have their travel preferences changed with time?
A. Following the trend witnessed from China earlier, the Indian traveller has also graduated from three-star accommodations to four-star and they are further moving to five-star. Significant number of Indian passengers is staying at four-star hotels but the demand for five-star is also growing. As the Indian economy will continue booming with the rupee becoming stronger and the aspiring middle-class getting higher purchasing power, the traffic will keep on surging. Right now, India ranks as the second strongest inbound source market after China.

Q. Please comment on the MICE and wedding business from the Indian market.
A. On the wedding tourism front, the business from the Indian market was good before demonetisation to Ras Al Khaimah, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Currently, the number of wedding travellers from India is small as the market is stabilising with remonetisation. Those coming in to UAE for business and MICE travel usually opt for luxury accommodations. Royal Arabian Destination Management handles about 150 groups from the Indian market every month.

Q. What impact will the introduction of VAT have on the tourism to the UAE?
A. There is news that the governments in the UAE are planning to introduce VAT in the region, but no official date has been announced yet. Tourism is a major contributor to the economy of emirates in UAE and the region is also seen as tourist-friendly. With talks of VAT doing the rounds, I am sure they will have a way out for the tourists. They might balance the act with VAT refund.

Q. How are the destinations in the UAE preparing to accommodate the increasing traffic from inbound source markets?
A. For travellers, a city like Dubai can never get old as the product range keeps getting better and we are constantly striving to update the trade on the same. We also push the trade to look at Dubai and Abu Dhabi beyond a three-night destination and with plenty of travel products on offer for a six-night stay. Dubai is observing new river cruising options at Marina and Canal area and Abu Dhabi is also bustling with new sightseeing options such as Warner Brothers and the planned museums of Guggenheim and Louvre. Recently, Ras Al Khaimah and Sharjah have also undertaken aggressive tourism promotions. The emirates of Fujairah and Ajman have more of beach resorts to offer and less of sightseeing. Such destinations are fit for European market and not for Indian travellers who want to cover quite a few places in a trip.

Q. What makes Royal Arabian different from the other competitors in the region?
A. As a DMC we cater majorly to the luxury and uber luxury travellers. We are not the cheapest DMC in the market and we even don’t promote ourselves with that philosophy. Royal Arabian Destination Management is an organised company which believes in offering a quality and valuefor- money experience to its customers. We don’t believe in being a part of the number game. We have no plans to go B2C. It is like confusing the market when you are going to the consumer and diluting the market of the tour operators. With the travel trade partners, we offer commissions based on whoever achieves the said business and revenue targets.

Q. Are the OTAs selling attractive packages to the UAE a threat to companies such as yours?
A. The Online Travel Agents (OTAs) have a better reach among travellers, but they will not be able to deliver our expertise. Moreover, even OTAs have to work with DMCs for tour operations. I don’t consider them as competitors but view them as business partners. To create an infrastructure that we have and make it runs profitably, is a challenge for OTAs which focus on a particular market. Right now, we are providing support to portals as and when needed. We are also in talks with OTAs and have also been approached by them to bid for their business to UAE which is expanding with time.

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