The Middle East is leading global tourism recovery as its robust expansion in both leisure and business experiences fuel its appeal. Add to this, its long summer remains a key multi-day tour drawcard for tour operators selling the region.
The Middle East’s almost year-long summer is its competitive advantage when attracting the European market. However, the region would do well to add more beachfront properties and curate experiences beyond its Uber-luxury eccentricities.
This is according to Casper Urhammer, the CEO of wholesale tour operator group FTI, the third largest in the world and tour operator launch partner for several Emirates destinations. The group has just signed a memorandum of understanding as a launch partner to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
He added that the Middle East is ideal for a European customer who has repeatedly visited a country like Spain, for example, during a winter break, and is looking for a new experience.
Urhammer unpacked how to grow multi-day demand in the Middle East in a discussion with Matthew Parsons, Skift corporate travel editor, during the Skift Global Forum East on Wednesday in Dubai.
The region’s robust tourism growth lends itself to various package options and duration lengths, he said, which the group is selling across its extensive component network, including its own aeroplanes, hotels, ground services and retail tour operator outlets.
FTI also works with travel agents in various shapes and forms, with some 10,000 agents reselling its products in Germany alone.
Urhammer said its six-million customer base, predominantly the German-speaking market in Germany, Switzerland and Austria, has given it a solid positioning to grow demand in the region, which it started selling back in 2009.
“Dubai is a destination that can offer pretty much anything to any traveller. There is so much more in the region to offer,” he said.
FTI delivers more than a million passengers in Turkey, with extensive plans to grow the current half a million travelers it brings to Dubai annually.
We focus on the right strategy for the destination, especially the German-speaking market and have been we have been incredibly strong launch partners for the region.
Urhammer said an entrepreneurial mindset with a risk willingness is crucial when developing its Middle East products as FTI is always focused on delivering the “best possible product and package, at a very good value pricing.”
When it comes to product differentiation, he added the region wasn’t entirely different, as it remained both explorative and destination based, with packages for family, cultural activities and natural beauty all seeing good demand. Urhammer shared he would be bringing his family to the The Warner Bros World in Abu Dhabi, the world’s largest indoor theme park for their next summer vacation.
Urhammer acknowledged the group had missed the digital boat and needed to be faster in its manual pricing processes, which are often subject to minute-by-minute changes.
However, he believed building its tech systems and processes off a diverse component network and strong customer base would let the business build strong digital products and catch up in the long run.