Double the ‘kids go free’ on holidays to Dubai


By Rebecca Bundhun

Dubai has launched a costly stimulus package for its tourism industry to try to sustain visitor numbers and meet its ambitious targets over the summer.

Two children under 16 with every family travelling to Dubai on Emirates Airline in the summer can claim free flights, free meals, hotel stays and entrances to attractions, the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) said yesterday.

The average family of four from Europe could save as much as £3,000 (Dh16,840) by taking advantage of the offer, according to one calculation.

The move doubles up on the “kids go free” deal launched last year by the DTCM, which allowed one child from each family to holiday for free. It is hoped that by increasing the offer, more families will come to the emirate during the traditionally slow summer months, when the weather is too hot for many foreigners.

The campaign will also run much longer this year, starting on May 14 to coincide with the Dubai Summer Surprises shopping festival and lasting five months. Last year it ran from July to September.

Hotels and other tourism companies in Dubai are keen to boost the numbers of tourists coming into the emirate amid declines in room rates, as the DTCM aims to attract 15 million visitors by 2015, about double the current number.

“This is a very smart move because we know that people are more cost-conscious and everyone is worried about whether there will be a second downturn,” said Rohit Talwar, the chief executive of the London-based consultancy Fast Future.

“Anything that can reduce the cost of a family holiday will help. It may attract families who weren’t previously thinking about going to Dubai.”

Mr Talwar said the initiative could help Dubai position itself as a cost-competitive alternative to other destinations.

The offer, along with cut-price hotel rates, helped to bolster tourist numbers in Dubai last year during the downturn in global tourism.

Tourism is an important part of Dubai’s economy, directly contributing 19 per cent to its GDP in 2008.

“The Kids Go Free programme is not simply just a cut-price promotion. It underlines our strategy of further establishing Dubai as a year-round destination and appealing to all target groups,” said Saleh al Geziry, the director of overseas promotions and inward missions at the DTCM.

Mr al Geziry said the department was working hard on promotional and marketing initiatives in what is an economically challenging time in many parts of the world.

Richard Vaughan, the divisional senior vice president for commercial operations worldwide of Emirates Airline, said the offer had been “immensely successful” last year, attracting more than 20,000 passengers from 70 countries to Dubai.

Passengers aged 12 or over normally pay adult air fares with Emirates, while children aged under 12 are charged 75 per cent of the fare.

The DTCM said a range of hotels were participating, from five-star landmarks such as Atlantis, The Palm to apartment hotels.

Free admission would be offered to two children to attractions such as the Sega Republic amusement park, the Wild Wadi water park and Ski Dubai.

The promotion also includes free excursions, such as the Dubai City Tour, a free round of golf and free admission to the aquarium in the Dubai Mall.

Fewer tourists arrived in the emirate from abroad in the first three quarters of last year, with a decline in business from Dubai’s largest tourist markets such as the UK.

Data from the DTCM showed a 1.3 per cent fall in international hotel guests in the emirate for those nine months, compared with the same period in 2008, although this was boosted by 3 per cent growth in the number of international guests in the first quarter. In the second quarter, international guest numbers fell 1.5 per cent. Visitor numbers fell 5.7 per cent in the third quarter compared with the same period in 2008.

Figures from the DTCM show that the drop-off in international tourism was offset by a rise in the number of UAE-based guests staying in Dubai’s hotels.

As a result, in the first three quarters of last year, hotel guest numbers grew by 3.2 per cent to 5,467,808. Analysts have said cut-price rates at hotels in Dubai attracted more UAE residents.