Skift Take

After three decades of fast growth, Dubai needs to shift its reputation toward a more authentic and culturally-infused destination experience, using local and visitor crowdsourced content.

Issam Kazim, CEO of Visit Dubai, operated by the Dubai Corporation for Tourism & Commerce Marketing, spoke today at the Skift Global Forum.

Kazim opened his presentation with two side-by-side photos of Dubai in the 1970s and today. As most people know, the difference between then and now in the emirate could not be more stark following the immense development over the last three decades.

Kazim’s talk, “The Future of City Branding,” focused on Visit Dubai’s strategy to grow the destination brand moving into the future.

He mentioned how the city has gained an incredible amount of international exposure in the past based on “stunts and celebrities,” such as hosting tennis matches on the helipad on the “7-star” Burj Al Arab Hotel, and partnering with famous people on promotional campaigns, ranging from Sir Richard Branson to David Beckham.


But, Kazim said, Visit Dubai needs to shift the destination’s brand perception globally beyond buildings and land development if it’s going to continue to attract more first-time and repeat visitors.

Here are a few of the things we learned:

  • Visit Dubai is focusing more on creating and promoting experiential, personalized and local travel experiences.
  • Visit Dubai wants to develop its network of sharing accommodations and alternative lodging to expand the breadth of the destination experience.
  • Visit Dubai is laser focused on mobile as the primary engagement platform to connect with travel consumers.
  • The residents of Dubai are the best marketers of the brand. According to Kazim, they are the brand.
  • The #MyDubai hashtag campaign was one of the first such social media promotional initiatives in the global tourism sector. Kazim said the campaign creates “a biography of the city” created by locals and residents together, which in turn builds a community around the brand.
  • After 20 months since the launch of #MyDubai, the hashtag has been used 9.78 million times on Instagram and 632,000 on Twitter.
  • Kazim said Visit Dubai can no longer control the destination brand or own the messaging.
  • Kazzin said tourism bureau should take advantage of all the digital tools available properly, including the above, to create a much larger marketing platform that speaks to a much larger audience.

Keep track of all the activity at this year’s Global Forum by bookmarking our #skiftforum tag.


And thanks to all the sponsors that made Skift Global Forum 2015 possible: Adobe, Amadeus, American Express, Boxever, Big Bus Tours, CendyneOne, Cheapoair, Criteo, Gogo, HelloGbye, Hornblower Cruises, MasterCard, Mindtree, National Geographic, NewsCred, Sabre, SiteMinder, Travel Channel, TurkeyHome, Uber, Underline, Virtuoso, and Yahoo.


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Tags: dubai, sgf2015, skift global forum

Photo credit: Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation for Tourism & Commerce Marketing. Skift

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