Swissotel GM: Dubai’s tourism sector at the core of economic growth

We speak with Emiel Van Djik, GM at Swissotel Al Ghurair

Swissôtel Al Ghurair
Swissôtel Al Ghurair

His journey with the Swissotel brand started in Berlin, where he gained insights across European properties including Swissotel London and Zurich. He then moved to Swissôtel The Bosphorus, Istanbul, which paved the way for his current role.

At the helm of the five-star Swissôtel Al Ghurair, we asked Emiel Van Djik about Dubai’s economy, its revenue drivers and of course, his secret to success.

What made you choose to work in Dubai?

I am honoured to bring my years of experience to bear within Swissôtel’s Dubai flagship. As a longstanding member of the Swissôtel family, my overarching mission is to translate the central philosophy of ‘Swissness’ to guests, which is interpreted as a commitment to service, warm and generous European hospitality values and a belief in bringing a sense of wellbeing and vitality to guests. My passion lies in creating and delivering internal programs that align employee skills and knowledge with our global brand standards.

“One of the most dynamic cities in the world”

Dubai is an attractive destination worldwide for both travel and business purposes and therefore, I am privileged to have this amazing opportunity to work in one of the most dynamic cities in the world.

Emiel Van Djik, GM at Swissotel, Al Ghurair
Emiel Van Djik, general manager at Swissotel Al Ghurair

Tourism is a big contributor to Dubai’s economy. What are the revenue drivers in the industry?

The tourism sector’s demand and supply situation in Dubai is marked by anticipated demand for the World Expo 2020 and the statistics are all known – Dubai needs to add 40,000 hotel rooms to the existing inventory of 107,000 guest rooms and hotel apartments. So, the current situation is dominated by a lot of new hotel construction and supply that will cater to future demand.

“To reach 20 million hotel guests by 2020”

Looking ahead to the future, the travel segment in the region will benefit from the wider tourism objectives and vision of the government, such as Dubai’s Tourism Vision 2020, an ambitious roadmap to double annual visitor numbers from 10 million in 2010 to 20 million in 2020. Dubai’s hotels and hotel apartments have hosted 15.8 million overnight visitors in 2017 – more than halfway mark to reach 20 million hotel guests by 2020.

Influenced by these initiatives, I believe we will see an increase in the family travel sector, as new theme parks and family attractions open in the region, in addition to an increase in high-end business and MICE bookings, due to evolving business initiatives and facilities in the city. Not to forget the Dubai Shopping Festival, which brings in a new set of shopping travellers to Dubai during this season.

Dubai also boasts thousands of accommodation choices, shopping centres, theme parks and other attractions, making it a popular spot for staycations. The trend of staycations has risen in recent years in the UAE, especially for long weekends that fall during public holidays in the country.

Dubai Mall
Dubai Mall

How important is ‘shopping tourism’ in the UAE?

In recent years, the expansion and diversification of tourism have been growing continuously and rapidly making it one of the largest economic sectors worldwide.

“27% of real GDP in 2017”

According to the Dubai Statistics Centre, Dubai’s retail sector is one of the largest contributors to the Emirates economy representing almost 27% of real GDP in 2017 (approximately 103.6 billion AED). The UAE has also invested heavily in its inbound travel and tourism industry through various developments.

If I were to stay at the Swissotel Al Ghurair, what attractions and experiences would you recommend?

Located in the heart of Dubai, Swissôtel Al Ghurair and Swissôtel Living Al Ghurair are the perfect combination of cosmopolitan shopping with contemporary entertainment in Dubai. Those with a penchant for shopping will savour its magnificent 482 rooms and 192 luxury apartments, which are connected to Al Ghurair Centre — the first modern shopping mall in the Middle East that hosts a large food court, an indoor children’s entertainment centre and a cineplex.

Swissôtel features the city’s age-old charm on one side where the traditional Arabic homes with wind towers, main trading hub, wholesale and retail districts, souqs, and the main waterway – the Dubai Creek, while on the other side, it is well-connected to the ever-vibrant neighbourhoods of Deira which is a home to bustling trade for decades – where  one experiences the true culture of the city.

In recent years, travellers focus on what they can do rather than on what they can see. Whether cities can become the destination of choice lies significantly today on the quality of their retail offerings.

Dubai Creek
Dubai Creek

What’s the secret to your successful career?

Getting up the ranks involves some trade-offs and the simple concept of hard work, day after day. I always plan ahead which gives me the confidence to take the risks that others may not take. I strongly believe that leaders who are not willing to take risks may never fulfil their vision and their success may be short-lived.

“Leaders who are not willing to take risks may never fulfil their vision”

By planning ahead, I identify the associated risks, weigh and categorise them, prioritise and create a response plan. In this way, I transform risks to opportunities and have experienced the rewards of taking them.

Planning ahead helps you and your organisation become assertive in taking risks and saying no to either conservative or aggressive approaches. The second thing is to keep a positive attitude to perform well in your daily life.

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