Steen Jakobsen, Assistant Vice President, Dubai Business Events expresses his view about future of business tourism in Dubai in an exclusive interview with Travel And Tour World.
Travel And Tour World: What are the challenges you are facing to restart MICE tourism?
Steen Jakobsen: At the heart of Dubai’s decision on when to restart business events tourism – and indeed every other economic sector and driver – was safety. Prudent leadership at the outset of the pandemic meant activities were paused and the focus was put on stopping its spread – something the city achieved effectively. The next step was to gradually open up sectors and put in place the correct measures and guidelines to ensure safety of all residents and visitors was prioritised.
With the nature of the business events sector, it was of course critical that we could ensure this safety while at the same time facilitating the gathering of people that sits at the heart of our industry. We therefore worked with stakeholders across the public and private sector to create a roadmap to enable this.
Of course, regardless of the effective response to the pandemic and the resumption of business events here, we are also inextricably tied to the destinations around the world that planners, organisations and delegates are based in and their ability to travel and do business internationally. We therefore continue to work closely with our network of global offices to monitor the unique situations in our source markets and provide meeting planners with the support and offerings they require.
Travel And Tour World: What are safety measures you have taken to protect the visitors?
Steen Jakobsen: Key to this has been the implementation of robust measures across the city to ensure the health and safety of all visitors and residents. Within the business events segment, this meant creating guidelines for venues and organisers to ensure measures such as social distancing, regular sanitization and temperature checks were introduced. Expanding beyond just venues, similar measures were also put in place across hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, public transport and Dubai International Airport – ensuring that safety was prioritised at every touchpoint for both visitors and residents.
Crucially, stakeholders around the city and frontline staff have been regularly updated, with best practices and guidelines shared, and inspections carried out by relevant authorities to ensure these are implemented.
Travel And Tour World: How this city is leading the way in the reopening of business events industry?
Steen Jakobsen: Thanks to the city’s strong response to the global pandemic, Dubai was able to open up for leisure tourism in July, followed by local business events and international business events in September and October respectively, with a steady and growing stream of meetings, conferences and trade shows since then.
The Gulf Information Technology Exhibition – more commonly known as GITEX Technology Week – became the first major technology event to take place globally, with over 1,200 exhibitors from over 60 countries participating
Dubai also demonstrated an ability to provide an impactful platform for associations, with the combined scientific conference of the Emirates Urological Society and Arab Association of Urology proving that vital knowledge sharing and education can happen in a safe and secure environment.
As with wider leisure tourism, Dubai has led the way in resuming business events – something we know meeting planners around the world are recognising and taking note of.
Travel And Tour World: What are events Dubai hosted to explore the future possibility of work and the potential developments for business event sector?
Steen Jakobsen: As we look to build on our strong rebound, we are in constant dialogue with meeting planners globally to provide them with a path to resume their business event plans, demonstrating Dubai’s ability to provide a destination option that both meets their requirements in terms of accessibility, facilities, activities and expertise, but also delivers the highest levels of safety and hygiene.
A key part of our strategy in 2021 is – where possible – to resume face-to-face meetings and interactions with business events professionals around the world. While we understand that there will continue to be digital and virtual channels, we have already had a positive response to the face-to-face sales and study missions we have conducted in recent months, and there is clearly a strong appetite for planners to both hear from us in person and experience Dubai as a destination.
Travel And Tour World: What are the technological developments Dubai undertakes to ensure safety?
Steen Jakobsen: Among the technology we have already seen deployed in venues has been artificial intelligence monitoring tools that enable organisers to identify where there isn’t sufficient social distancing or where crowds may be unacceptably large.
This is echoed around the city, with technology leveraged to ensure the impact of the global pandemic can be minimized here and safety ensured: from AI in taxis that can confirm if passengers are wearing face masks, to learning tools rolled out in schools to enable effective distance learning throughout the academic year.
For the Dubai Business Events team, the city’s strong digital infrastructure meant we were able to work safely from home and at the same time stay connected to our global network and maintain dialogue with planners around the world throughout the pandemic, keeping Dubai top of mind and providing a springboard for the resumption of events.