DMCS call for support in face of new laws
DMCs ask the government to work with them to develop tourism
“We are the ambassadors of Dubai and we need support” say DMCs
Banned from meeting their tour groups at the airport, DMCs say its time the government started working with them, not against them to support tourism to Dubai.
Destination Management Companies (DMCs) in Dubai say the recent ruling banning them from providing their own meet and assist services to incoming tour groups at Dubai Airport is just the latest in a string of rules and regulations imposed by various government bodies, which is putting immense pressure on their already squeezed profit margins.
They have called on the government to help support the inbound tourism industry and work with them to achieve their joint goals of increasing tourism to Dubai.
“It’s not a good thing – on the one hand Dubai wants to have a lot of tourists coming into their country, and on the other hand they’re having these rules and regulations which are getting more and more each year. It’s not good for tourism,” says Franca Jatzlau, contracting executive, Orient Tours.
A major frustration among tour operators is that there is no single authority responsible for dishing out the rules and regulations that they that are expected to follow.
One DMC told ATN: “With the RTA, DTCM and police you get three sets of regulations when it comes to tourism. You have to go to each body, and the rules can change overnight. Can’t they talk together and tell us: this is what the regulations are and this is what they will be for the next two years?”
Rajesh Nair, assistant manager, group reservations, Orient Tours agrees: “Depending on which issue you have, you need to go to a different department. For example, DTCM says you need to have a logo on the tourism vehicle, but then you need to have a license from RTA to keep the logo. It would help us if they liaised with each other and just fixed one fee for this.”
A ‘JUNGLE’ IN THE MARKET
The DMCs say that while they are forced to battle with increasing red tape, fees, licenses and permits in order to carry out their operations to the letter - in terms of clamping down on the industry the government should be looking elsewhere.
In recent years the inbound tour operator market has spiralled exponentially from just a small number of companies to include hundreds of operators - many of which lack experience, facilities or qualifications. These ‘fly-by-night’ operators are undercutting the bigger players, putting pressure on their prices, not to mention potentially damaging Dubai’s reputation.
“Right now Dubai is facing a major problem,” says Ali Helmi, CEO, Net Tours.
“The competition that came to the market in the last 11 or 12 years was not a healthy competition. Nowadays it is like a jungle in the market,” he adds.
Frederic Bardin, senior vice president, Arabian Adventures fully agrees that the there needs to be a clampdown on the number of unqualified tour operators working in Dubai.
“To me there is not enough regulation of the industry,” he says. “Look at the DTCM website.
Look how many tour operators there are. You will find something like 200 companies on there.”
“How many of those can be serious? Half of our would-be competitors are not even serious about the training of their staff, or their insurance. They take on the local beach boy because he’s got a four wheel drive to conduct a safari – with no insurance, no training, and he hardly speaks English. And he’s got his radio music blasting through the car the whole afternoon.”
“It proves there is not enough regulation,” says Bardin.
Bardin is adamant the framework of rules must be reinforced in the correct way - which means clamping down on operators who are “endangering the lives of clients, damaging Dubai’s image and Dubai’s reputation” and not the operators who “don’t put a sticker on the car straight.”
He adds: “There are people out there doing safaris and guests come back and say ‘we were bashed around on the dunes for two hours, the guy didn’t say a word, we were afraid in the car because he was speeding, the car was making funny noises it didn’t seem to be safe’… these are the people we should be looking at.
We need the police to enforce the rules that are there and tighten them in a meaningful way and say this is what is expected from an inbound tourism company.”
workING together for tourism
With Dubai’s DMCs and the Dubai Government ultimately working towards the same goal – bringing tourism to the country - DMCs say it is time the authorities stepped in and started to work with them rather than against them towards achieving this goal.
“We need the government to step in and help to standardise the industry,” says Hakim Al Budoor, chairman, Net Tours.
He suggests the introduction of a ‘star-rating’ system for DMCs - something akin to hotel star ratings - so that established DMCs who have invested in providing the proper service, operations and facilities can highlight this to their clients.
Al Budoor is also keen for the government to improve the situation regarding desert safari camps which by law currently have to be built in one allocated area of the desert.
It means the increasing number of tour groups in Dubai end up congregating en masse practically on top of one another. “What I see in Dubai is that you cannot provide the quality here.
The camps are next to each other, all in one place. It has become so lousy, with so much competition, and it’s not really where the tourists like to go. It’s a fun programme, but not a real desert experience when they’re sitting in the dunes and they see the electric power lines overhead and hundreds of groups around them, and you can hear the next door camp.
“At Net Tours we want to provide for the top quality tourist but this is not the way. To match these standards we need government support for this.”
CALL FOR TOURISM DEPARTMENT
With all these concerns in mind, not to mention the many rules and regulations that have to be navigated - the first step could be to set up a dedicated ‘tourism department’ suggests Nair, from Orient Tours.
“A tourism department could be a one-stop office who could liaise with all the other licensing departments on our behalf.
“For example if we have a problem with the airport, the department could intervene and talk with the concerned authorities. Then we don’t need to approach so many people.”
He added: “We are here to do business for the country so we will take all the pain. But if there was one step – one department – that would make our life easier.”
Helmi, from Net Tours agrees that this would be a major step towards helping the industry to work together more.
“We have to work together because at the end of the day it’s our destination – we are not blaming anyone for the problems we’ve been facing, we are just trying to do something about it and we hope the government will do something too.
“We just need support. We need a solution. We are here as ambassadors of this country and we would like to bring the best to this country.”