Challenging misconceptions

Challenging misconceptions

My Agenda

Ian Scott

Ian Scott
Director, UK & Ireland
Dubai Government Department of Tourism & Commerce

There are salacious scandals that the tabloids love to splash over our beloved front pages


Ultimately it is the role of a tourist board to promote visitor figures, length of stay and spend to its destination. Traditionally this is done by branding the said country or region and keeping it front of mind amongst consumers and the travel trade alike.

However Dubai is no ordinary destination.  You will struggle to find anyone who has never heard of Dubai or anyone that does not have an opinion about it.

Almost everyday stories can be read in the national press, it can be anything from an article about another world record breaking construction project to a story about an A-List film star found partying at Dubai’s newest celebrity hang-out. And of course there are the salacious scandals that the tabloid press love to splash over our beloved front pages, often more fiction that fact.

So our aim is to work with those misconceptions to encourage people to think again about Dubai.


In 2011 we conducted our own research amongst the British holidaying public. While there are millions of people that have the means to holiday to Dubai and a desire to holiday to a destination that offers everything that Dubai does, many are simply unwilling to consider it.

We have identified a series of misconceptions that exist amongst the public (and some of the travel trade) that is contributing to this mindset.

Dubai has no culture, is unaffordable, there's nothing for families, it's dangerous, restrictive and intolerant. For most people that have actually holidayed in Dubai these misconceptions seem unfair and unjustified.

However for many of those who have never been to Dubai these misconceptions are a very real barrier to them considering it. It is only by challenging these notions that we can effectively promote the destination to our target demographic.

The truth is Dubai is a hugely welcoming city to people from all over the world. It is stooped in fascinating history and culture and has some of the best and wide variety of dining and nightlife options found anywhere.

It is clean; safe; has high hygiene standards; wonderful family friendly hotels with outstanding kids clubs and other children's facilities; and is accessible from 6 regional UK airports as well as Dublin in a very manageable flight time and no jet lag. Whether it is a family, couples, shopping or sports holidays, Dubai really does tick all the boxes.

Our challenge is to engage with the public and trade alike to tackle the aforementioned misconceptions. This needs to be done and informative and innovative manner. While our messages need to be in-depth and educational they also need to be engaging without being condescending.

All of our 2012 activities involved tackling these misconceptions head on. The challenge was to create an advertising, marketing and PR strategy that went beyond just branding and promoting new hotels. We briefed specifically targeted media owners to produce print advertorials, online microsites and rich media in their own editorial style but set to a complex brief given by Dubai Tourism.

Within the activity the misconceptions were examined and the truth about Dubai revealed. Press trips involved taking the most relevant journalists to Dubai with a view to breaking down any misconceptions that they might have. By taking journalists to a top night club like Mahiki, N’Dulge or Embassy a view that Dubai is a restrictive place to holiday to is quickly dispelled.

Dubai is a place that the British public have a love-hate relationship with and it tends to be those that have actually visited that fall firmly into the love category.

Once people experience Dubai for the first time our job is done, they quickly learn that Dubai offers an incredible holiday experience.


Making your target audience aware of your destination's existence can be achieved relatively easily through branding campaigns, generally the more you spend the more you destination is recognised.

However challenging existing preconceptions about your destination is a very different challenge. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of consumer and trade based research. It is the only way I have been able to fully understand my market and to define who my target audience is.

It is also important to have realistic objectives. Persuading an undecided holiday maker to choose Dubai instead of a destination that they are more familiar with can be a long process. It is therefore important to recognise your key messages and to play the long game.

I now recognise that one advertising campaign or one PR stunt is not enough to alter people’s preconceptions, rather more it is about promoting the right information over a prolonged period until our messages gradually resonate.

For some Dubai will never be a holiday consideration no matter how much I try to persuade them otherwise. My advice is to concentrate your efforts on those that are on the fence, with a view that their preconceptions are open to challenge.

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