‘Nigeria our top source market for visitation globally’

The chief executive of Dubai Tourism has identified Nigeria as one of Dubai’s top 25 to 30 source markets in terms of visitation globally because of the population advantage.

The Senior Manager Campaign Management, Dubai Tourism, Salim Ali Mohamed Dahman, who spoke with journalists on the sideline of the Akwaaba African Travel Market held at the Eko Hotel and Suites, Lagos, said the market size has attracted Dubai tourism to come to Nigeria at least four or five times every year to do trainings, trade shows and also interact with talents. He said, “We work closely with Nollywood talents and musicians to try and also have an exchange of culture between the two countries

“Every year in the last three to four years with Akwaaba and in Nigeria in general, we have seen the growth; the destination has been growing steadily in double digits throughout and what we have decided as well is to sustain that growth.

Everybody knows that Emirates as one of the airlines operating direct flights to Dubai has increased its frequencies to Abuja and Lagos as well, so we want to fill the plane. We know that there is opportunity to fill the seats as well; and in order for us to do that, we need to have a big presence at Akwaaba and also talk to decision makers and tell them what else is new, what else is happening.

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“We have seen the middle class in Nigeria growing; people are aspiring to go to Dubai whether for education, health or general tourism to have a good time. And in time of proximity and ease of visa processing, while you spend seven hours going to the US with all the visa issues you might have, that is non-existent with Dubai.

“Dubai is very straightforward. With your ticket, your travel agent will help you get the visa. You don’t need a thousand documents.

Salim Ali Mohamed Dahman who was visiting Nigeria for the first time spoke with great enthusiasm about how happy he was to have attended the travel show, sayingit gave him an unprecedented opportunity to meet African tourism players under one roof.

“This is my first visit to Nigeria, but for my team, no. My experience so far has been great, unlike the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, where you have the African pavilion, which is usually overshadowed by northern African countries; but here, you get the real feel of the industry and the professionals from the sub Saharan region, I have not experienced that before.

“The insight I got by talking with different countries and tourism agencies – you get to understand their frame of mind, what is important to them, how they sell destination and their optimism for the future as and fulfilling,” he said.

Giving a broad explanation on the recent focus on Dubai cultural promotion, Dahman said “the cultural advocacy has always been there, but what I think is that in the last few years, we have tried to show more of our culture.

“First of all, when you come to Dubai, you have a great experience at the beach or shopping. That is what people know Dubai for, so we said no, Dubai should not be only shopping and amazing infrastructure. We wanted more, to get to the soul and understand what Dubai is. That is why we tried to push culture to show that, yes, we do have a history and we want to celebrate our history.

“People go to dessert safari but the desert safari is a different type of experience. It’s the Bedouin experience versus eating, and then you have the dancers. That is not really what a desert safari should be; it should be culture. It should be massive and we are trying to push that so that people will understand.

“Same like us coming to Nigeria, when we see music, which is something like a cultural export from Nigeria to the world right now, we understand Nigeria. So, whatever bad perception the press had shown about Nigeria has now gone away because the music and the movie industry is now creating a new narrative.

“Now, we are all like, we will all come to Nigeria because Nigeria is a place to do business now. They are just like us; they are progressives. So it’s the same thing with our culture, we are showing culture. We are showing women; we are showing Dubai is safe, accessible and that is what we would continue to do.”

Speaking on next year’s Akwaaba African Travel  Market, Dahman was confident of a strong presence in Nigeria in September next year because of the preparation for Dubai expo in October 2020.

“In October 2020, we will be going live. So, when we come here in September next year, we will be showing you what is happening live. We will show you the real expo site and say this is ready and ongoing now and not an animation,” he added.

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