Helal Saeed Almarri, director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, has been presented with the prestigious AHIC Leadership Award 2020.
The ceremony took place during AHIC on the Road, a revamped hospitality showcase taking place across the emirate this week.
Picking up the award, Saeed Almarri struck an upbeat tone on the future of tourism in the Middle East.
He said: “We do not see any long-term impact on the travel and tourism sector here in Dubai.
“Post Covid-19 we are expecting a spike in demand, as people take holidays they have already booked, and then we will re-evaluate our longer-term targets.
“We are currently planning on a six, 12- and 18-month horizon, but we will re-evaluate our strategy once we see a new floor to bookings post-Covid-19.”
He added: “Encouragingly, we are seeing a change in behaviour now, with searches for bookings returning to around 75 per cent of their previous levels during September.
“Emirates is also now offering around 94 destinations, which is obviously very positive for us.
“We can see growth continuing – and we do see a clear path ahead of us in the long-term.”
Mark Willis, chief executive of Accor Hotels Middle East & Africa, acted as master of ceremonies.
Turning his attention to the MICE market, Saeed Almarri said Covid-19 may ultimately benefit business travel in the emirate.
“Dubai is a MICE hub, and we have to look at the impact of Covid-19 from two angles.
“This year, as we reopen tourism, we looked at what precautionary measures had to be taken to host events, and we have put those in place.
“People want to meet together, and you can do so under Covid-19 restrictions, we have proved that.
“Post-Covid-19, I do not see much change in the Dubai market.
“Certainly, industries that have been hit by the economic side of this pandemic will retract marketing spend and budgets will fall – we will have to deal with that.
“But as Dubai, we look at this from a long-term perspective, and the events we have booked for quarter one of next year are strong.
“We expect the market to come back over the next 12-months, with Dubai winning even more events because of what we have demonstrated over recent months.
“With Expo 2020 coming next year, we are going to be in a strong position to lead the industry.”
Accor Middle East chief Mark Willis, left, made the presentation
Helal Saeed Almarri has been director general of the Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing since 2013.
Under his leadership, the emirate has been recognised as the World’s Leading Business Travel Destination and World’s Leading MICE Destination at the World Travel Awards, as well as taking a host of other titles in the recent past.
Almarri is a member of the executive council of Dubai, a member of the board of directors of the Investment Corporation of Dubai and also the director general of the Dubai World Trade Centre Authority (DWTCA).
The Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing (DTCM) is the government authority responsible for continuously furthering Dubai’s position as a leading global tourism destination and business hub.
In his capacity, Almarri is accountable for the planning, oversight, and delivery of Dubai’s vision and aspirational targets for the sector.
His mandate also includes a strategic focus on driving sustainable tourism – contributing to the economic development of the emirate and ensuring that tourism as a sector with all related adjacencies are effectively growing their contribution to domestic GDP.
Almarri’s responsibilities span both leisure and business aspects of the city’s value proposition.
As such his role entails enhancing Dubai’s positioning as the preferred international hub for the global business community to network from, establish and expand their presence in, and service the broad range of markets across EMEASA.
To facilitate delivery, he is equally responsible for forging collaborations and partnerships across the industry ecosystem globally, and Dubai government, private and public sector stakeholders.
Helal Almarri also heads up the DWTCA, which encompasses the United Arab Emirates’ leading event venue and the largest event and exhibition centre in the whole region.
He is responsible for developing the centre’s strategic and development plans that aim to position Dubai as a leading global MICE destination.
In his capacity, Almarri is mandated to manage various sides of the business including exhibitions and conferences; real estate; and hospitality – all collectively driving towards the company’s growth strategy in line with Dubai’s vision to create a global platform for business tourism, as mandated by sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai.
Almarri also serves as a member of the supreme committee of the Expo 2020 and board member at the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Emaar Malls and Taaleem.
Helal Almarri holds a Master of Business Administration degree from the London Business School.
He is a Chartered Accountant from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and previously worked at consulting firms, McKinsey and KPMG.
For those looking to explore Dubai head of any visit, Travel TV offers a curated selection of videos designed to showcase the emirate, while Discover Dubai brings you all the latest from the Middle Eastern destination.
The latter also has a strong presence on Instagram.