Events and Industry Sustainability in a New Era

By 31 March 2021May 3rd, 2021Sustainability

Events and Industry Sustainability in a New Era

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By Julie King

Interview with Issam Kazim

In this third blog, Issam Kazim, CEO of the Dubai Corporation of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), updates on how Events in Dubai are evolving as a result of the pandemic and how the industry can remain sustainable in the future.

You have a lot of festivals and events year-round in Dubai. Do you see that changing, in a post-pandemic era? or is there a different approach to those events?

In the past, we had often discussed that events eventually would become virtual or a hybrid model. One of the events we launched as soon as the market opened up on the seventh of July was an AI conference. The people who physically attended immediately gained a lot of confidence from how things were managed. They were a little bit wary at first but the way the registration was done, and how people arrived on site and were led into the physical space, how the safe distances were measured, people in masks, cleaning between sessions and everything that was put into place, was all done so seamlessly that people felt comfortable and at ease which was a hugely positive sign for us. We also opened up the show virtually so that people could attend from around the world. 

Again, we had a chance to put into practice something that the world has been talking about, the hybrid model of conferences and seeing it in reality. I feel that could also transition into something that we’ll focus on a lot more in the future.

I would say the same thing applies to the events and festivals side if you look at the number of events we’ve had.

For example, we have had the Dubai Summer Surprises festival for over twenty-five years now, and they’ve been extremely successful. We have just finished the latest Summer Surprises. It was quite successful because we relied on the resident population who would usually be travelling at this time. They played a massive role in making sure that we had a successful DSS within the current parameters. 

Then we had the Home Festival, which is a very new one. And we’re now going into our Fitness Challenge, which is in its fourth year. It comes in at the right time because it talks about thirty minutes of exercise a day for thirty days. It’s about individuals’ health and well-being and taking it outdoors but being responsible and aware of the current circumstances. Again we see a controlled approach to that happening. 

“If you look at the other events and festivals, you will see some of these new measures in place; whether it’s the limits to the number of people in the malls or within the store, or the restaurants, making sure that the tables are set up in a way that you are keeping safe distances between the tables and between individuals. I believe events will go on, but it will be a new way of progressing into the new norm.”

What impact do you foresee the current pandemic having on the Dubai World Expo?

The Expo team are in a better position to talk about it, but what I can say is that Expo is a one of a kind of event. It’s something where you need to be there physically to experience and see it, and it runs for six months. It’s about the flexibility, whether it’s the working hours, the number of visitors at any given point in time in any given location, and how they are managing the inflow and outflow of people. We have the opportunity to be able to control that much better as well. 

Because it’s such an innovative event, I think the pandemic has allowed us to approach it slightly differently. The content and the context and the virtual world have evolved during the pandemic so the hybrid approach might play a more significant role than initially planned. But I think the physical aspect of it will remain a critical factor, and I’m sure that we will have the right measures in place to ensure that everyone can come and experience it. 

In your opinion, what are some of the significant changes that need to happen within the industry for it to remain sustainable in the future and, and to protect society? and what are some of the shifts that you are seeing?

There are a few things. First of all, maybe from a travel ecosystem perspective, I would say that every one of us should start looking at the evolution of travel in terms of what it will look like post-pandemic. As I said, the purchase behaviour will change – when it comes to the booking period, how long people will travel, and how early people might be booking or how late.

And let’s not forget the newer generation, as we look at the Gen Z and Gen Alpha. They seem to be a lot quicker in decision making compared with when we were deciding. Those are the kind of trends that we need to be on top of, and I think the pandemic would have kicked that into full throttle. 

We also need to bear in mind how people are booking and how they’re seeking and finding destinations, so we need to understand that better. It’s going to be important where we present our messages and how we position them.

Then there is the eco side of travel;  the sustainability aspect and environment and so on. Over the past few years, Dubai has started to take steps in the right direction, and we have many more offerings coming on online now within that space. 

People are not necessarily familiar with all of Dubai’s landscapes; such as the rocky mountains of Dubai, which become very important, especially at this time of the year. Even within the older parts of Dubai, there are two locations where we used to go whenever the weather starts getting better. 

Every weekend we go out there with the families to barbecue and have that nature and wildlife kind of an experience. And as we grew older, we started going with friends and camping out there, and those are becoming increasingly important. 

Whether you look at the desert side with Marmoun, or many of the other sites within Dubai, these focus on the wildlife and the nature of what Dubai has to offer. These are things that people don’t necessarily associate with Dubai and are becoming part of a huge new boom. We also have some beautiful campsites that are very eco-friendly with beautiful hiking trails and mountain biking trails created in this lovely environment. Families and young adults with their friends can go there and stay in well set up trailers that are very cool and easy to access. 

There are also beautiful glass lodges on top of different mountains. It is something that we’re doing from a conscious perspective but also because we see a lot more demand coming through.

So I think it’s essential for us to step away, sometimes far away from how we used to do things and seek a fresh approach. Change perspective or change your mentality and try to understand and get into the psyche of every opportunity at your doorstep.

In Part 2, Issam describes how Dubai has shifted marketing and introduced exciting new initiatives in preparation for international tourism, moving into the ‘new normal.’

“As an industry we weren’t solving the problems that really mattered. We were disconnected from each other and not leading the way.”

Julie King
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