190528 eid celebrations
Eid celebrations at Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi. Data analytics will be a key driver for Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry in the years to come Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Data analytics will be a key driver for Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry in the years to come as the emirate looks to compete globally as a top tourist destination, said Saif Saeed Ghobash, undersecretary of the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi).

Ghobash was speaking at the first-ever Tourism and Data Analytics Forum held in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, as the event brought together several leading industry players from the tourism and hospitality sector to discuss the latest trends within the sector and how important data information will be as the industry looks to expand.

This year has already been a successful one for the DCT Abu Dhabi, which last month announced a 2.9 per cent overall increase in hotel guests staying in Abu Dhabi compared to 2018, with the emirate hosting several major events this year including the Asia Cup, Special Olympics, UFC 242 and the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

“We at the DCT — Abu Dhabi believe that the subject of data analytics is a fundamental pillar of our modus operandi. Data is the fuel that drives the various operating models as a key ingredient to achieving our aspirations,” said Ghobash.

“We strong believe that a tourism destination not adopting data and analytics as part of its work in this day and age is akin to a city running without electricity or fuel,” he added.

“With the world crossing the 1 billion threshold of visitors and the $1 trillion market spend, competition is global and it’s real,” he said, pointing to the highly competitive nature of the tourism industry.

Ghobash said that it was no longer an option to provide visitors with a personalised plan tailored to their tastes, but rather a must for cities looking to stay ahead of the competition.

“Mass personalisation is no longer a theme of innovation when it has become a customer expectation.

“Let’s imagine for a moment you land at Abu Dhabi International Airport; your Uber or Careem is waiting for you [and] you open your assistant … and check out your plan for the day … and every bit of your plan matches your budget, taste and lifestyle,” he added.

“This isn’t science fiction, today it’s all about personalised journeys and data perfected by retailers,” he said.

Ziad Mohammad, business intelligence director at the DCT Abu Dhabi, spoke on how the organisation was already using its data analysis to help support the local industry, highlighting how one such programme was implemented for the UFC 242 which took place in September.

“We gathered the data from Ticketmaster, all our digital marketing and PR campaigns and we created buyer personas. We predicted who is coming to Abu Dhabi to [watch] the UFC [and] at what income level and which country and demographics [they’re from.].

“We created four buyer personas — high income buyer, low income and family buyer personas. We went back and tested [this] as a pilot to the nightlife operators, we told them 60 per cent of their audience will be from these two countries and this income level,” he added.

“They changed their artists for the UFC event to accommodate the upcoming audience, this allowed them to significantly increase their bookings ... and offering,” he said, explaining how the data was able help.

Speaking on some of Abu Dhabi’s tourism trends gleaned from their data studies, Mohammad said visitor spending was varied during summer and winter months, creating two different pictures for the emirate.

“We realised the profile and the spending power and the demographics of the people arriving in the summer in Abu Dhabi is completely different than the profile arriving in winter.

“So with this … we create a statement highlighting the story of Abu Dhabi through two narratives … [and] so every single forecast will differ depending on which solution you use [summer or winter],” he added.