The Middle East region is known for its competitiveness. But we are about to see a softening where more brands are willing to collaborate and cooperate in a bid to capture the imagination of more tourists worldwide.
In some ways the Middle East is a victim of its own success: It weathered the pandemic relatively well, and the luxury market proved resilient. But now as tourism to the region swiftly recovers, the challenge is how do brands operating there stand out when inter-regional competition is so fierce?
Expedia, for example, wants to leverage its data to help destinations branch out, and draw tourists to locations outside the traditional hotspots.
“[Travelers] aren’t just looking for large cities, they want to know about culture, UNESCO sites, that’s where we can help expose secondary cities,” said Rob Torres, senior vice president of Expedia Group Media Solutions, speaking at the inaugural Skift Global Forum East event in Dubai on Wednesday.
“It’s our job to say there’s so much more than going to just one place. Why don’t we explose you to some other interesting areas?” he added. “As we go forward there’s going to be more interesting destinations in the Middle East, but we’ve got to let people know that’s possible.”
Lighting the Way
Morocco is a destination that’s also taking collaboration to heart. It recently relaunched its tourism campaign, and took a new approach. “It was a collaboration process with the public [and] we aligned with the private sector. They were part of the process from the initial brief,” said Adel El Fakir, CEO of Moroccan National Tourism Office.
And rather than rely on one creative agency for Kingdom of Light, the country opted for more collaboration by working with two. The CEO said the tourism office looked for the best creative talents it could find, including one based in Paris that had previously worked with Nike.
And while in the past its different campaigns had been tailored to different source markets, such as France, this time El Fakir said he wanted to “focus on who we are, our DNA,” to create a global brand.
Lots of interviews were also conducted in the build-up. “We have solid insight to help us take risks,” El Fakir added. “The challenge was to tell the story behind the brand. From a destination perspective, the challenge was to bring a new layer. What is the experience you’ll have living in Morocco.”
Jumeirah Group is also looking to alter the perception it is only tied to Dubai.
“More than half of our portfolio is outside Dubai,” said Thomas Meier, chief operating officer of Jumeirah Group, during the “Driving Growth Through Industry Collaboration” panel discussion. “People think we’re only in Dubai, but that’s not true.”
As a result it’s going to “continue to put flags in new destinations” in the coming years. In the first quarter of 2023 it will also enter Saudi.
The luxury sector had held up during the Covid, and came back faster, noted moderator Rafat Ali, CEO and founder of Skift. “The resilience of the luxury market has been incredible, but we haven’t been sitting still,” Meier replied. “We spent a lot of time revisiting luxury for our guests.”
One area the group is focusing on is e-commerce, as well as artificial intelligence. It aims to have different chat bots with different languages, for example. Meier said that for guests staying longer periods, such as three or four months, they may want to ask where they can temporarily school their children.
“That’s not a usual request,” he said. “That’s where we are evolving.”
Differentiation will be key for individual brands, and destinations, in the Middle East region to stand out from the crowd. Collaboration for now looks like the best strategy as tourists begin looking for their next vacation.
“The future is really personalization, how do we help the Moroccos of the world catch intent early on from consumers?” added Expedia Group Media Solutions’ Torres.
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Tags: data, dubai, expedia, jumeirah, luxury, morocco, sgfe2022, skift live
Photo credit: From left: Rob Torres, Expedia Group Media; Thomas Meier, Jumeirah Group; Adel El Fakir, Moroccan National Tourism Office; and Rafat Ali, Skift, speaking at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai on Dec.14. Skift