Where’s the camaraderie in the Middle East travel and tourism industry?

A problem shared is a problem halved, or so the saying goes. This old adage rings true when applied in most situations, whether personal or business related. So why is the travel industry in this region reluctant to take heed of this notion?

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By  Gemma Greenwood Published  October 18, 2006

|~||~||~|A problem shared is a problem halved, or so the saying goes. This old adage rings true when applied in most situations, whether personal or business related. So why is the travel industry in this region reluctant to take heed of this notion? We live in an age of distrust; where companies believe that sharing a problem with their competitor will expose their weakness and mark the start of their demise. But sharing examples of failures and successes and identifying methods of good practice would actually benefit all parties involved; the process of elimination will identify the best way forward. The travel industry in this region is slow on the uptake when it comes to sharing information with its competitors. It is widely known that the general managers of many Dubai hotels meet on a regular basis to discuss common problems and to compare occupancy and rack rates. But how many actually tell the truth, particularly if they are having a bad month? The GM of one five-star property is known to have stopped attending these sessions, and rumour has it that occupancy levels at his property aren’t what they should be. If speculation is accurate, then surely this is the time when the disheartened GM needs a problem-solving session with his experienced peers more than ever? Why are occupancies low and what can be done to rectify the situation? Maybe other GMs can lend a hand? It’s not as if there isn’t enough business to go around. In other areas of the world there are associations, think-tank groups and more forward-thinking companies that are willing to share ideas and data. The UK-based International Business Leaders Forum (IBLF), for example, established by the Prince of Wales, has a Tourism Partnership division, which aims to take examples of good practice from around the world and to share them with the industry. Many international hotel chains including the Jumeirah Group are members, and travel-related issues tackled range from poverty alleviation sustainable tourism. The ILBF’s Tourism Partnership is looking for more tourism-related companies in the Middle East to get involved, including construction firms. All too often we see sensationalist stories portraying a very one-dimensional view of the construction work being undertaken in the GCC, particularly Dubai. The tallest building, the biggest shopping mall, manmade Palm-shaped islands promising ‘The World’ and super resorts offering facilities galore. But how often is the environmental impact of these projects assessed or the treatment of the workers involved in building them given column inches? People are fed up hearing that everything is honky dory and are craving some constructive criticism. If we are always told we are the best we can be, then how can we improve? With regard to the travel industry, more camaraderie between all related parties – including hotels, airlines, agents, operators and ancillary products such as car rental and travel insurance etc – is required. This should involve setting up forums, round tables and representative bodies, as well as creating more open and honest dialogue with the press, particularly travel trade publications. Our role is to be your mouthpiece – so use us to sound out your issues!||**||

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