With a promise of more than 25 million visits from across the world, Expo 2020 Dubai creates a unique platform where developers can cater to a huge pool of potential foreign investors. Industry insiders say developers are well aware of this opportunity and are actively positioning their projects to target these visitors.
“Selling real estate in Dubai to those attending Expo is one of the major potential benefits of hosting this event,” says Craig Plumb, head of research at JLL Middle East and North Africa (Mena).
However, it’s important to have a comprehensive plan in place to capitalise on the huge inflow of international travellers, many of whom would be first-time visitors.
“Engaging international travellers will start at the beginning of their travel journey as soon as they have interacted with a travel booking platform and shown a clear intent to travel to Dubai,” says Sébastien Marteau, CEO and founder of Iconiction, a proximity and location-based marketing company.
“Real estate developers should ideally build a full funnel strategy with upper and lower funnel tactics to really generate the right quality of leads and convert them ultimately into buyers.”
With prices having fallen by around 25 per cent since the last peak in 2014, Craig agrees Dubai has become more competitively priced for overseas buyers and many developers are offering attractive payment plans for owner-occupiers and rental guarantees for investors.
He says the high number of international visitors and the increased media attention on Dubai generated by Expo 2020 offer an opportunity for increased investment activity.
“If developers are able to take advantage of this opportunity, Expo 2020 may provide the catalyst to stabilise the market and reverse the trend of falling prices and rentals experienced over the past few years,” says Craig.
However, Simon Townsend, senior director and head of strategic advisory and consulting at CBRE Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, says an increase in the transient population is not a key driver.
“Therefore, it is important that Expo 2020 supports long-term investment in the region while attracting new talent that will set up home in the UAE for many years to come,” he says.
Targeting specific market
Industry experts say companies should be preparing their collaterals and staff to cater to international visitors. “It helps if company staff speak multiple languages, however, communication soft skills can make up for the lack of language diversity,” says Rafael Mondonedo, marketing manager, international new homes at Chestertons Mena.
Another strategy, he suggests, is to make “your branding and collaterals easier to relate to”. For his company, Mondonedo says this works by having a slightly different logo across the over 120 locations worldwide, depending on country and extending that principle by use of language in all communications, such as websites and brochures. “It’s a simple tweak but it’s highly effective especially with people who are not that well-versed in the English language,” he explains.
Iconiction’s Marteau says targeting specific nationalities such as Chinese, Saudi and Russian will be key to keeping within the advertising budget.
“Digitally, we can also target specific nationalities from their country of origin as soon as they have booked their tickets,” he says. This is possible because traveller-specific digital advertising platforms can collect travel audience profile based on meta-search travel platform data such as Kayak, Skyscanner and OTA travel platform data like Expedia or directly from booking engines such as Amadeus from airlines and hotels companies.
“Airlines, online travel agencies, hospitality groups, destination marketing organisations and other vendors of travel products can all feed data that can be leveraged by the real estate developers so that they reach their ideal targeted audience, e.g luxury or affluent travellers, very specifically and efficiently,” says Marteau.
Use of technology
Technology and tools are obviously set to play a very important role in engaging with international travellers who will be targeted at various touch points of their journey to Dubai. Marteau says the international travellers will be targeted on their notebook, smartphones as soon as they have booked their tickets, inside planes (with Wi-Fi for example), at the airport, in taxis, in trips using Wi-Fi UAE in 470 locations, in their hotels via geo-targeting and via handy smartphones in their rooms.
“Leveraging pop-up stores in key locations will be also efficient to engage travellers more directly. The site of Expo 2020 can also be directly geo-targeted with mobile advertising campaigns on smartphones to capture travellers on sites,” he says.
Mondonedo agrees companies need to take advantage of advances in communication tools and technologies. “It is worth noting that, in our business, the companies that see the most success in using new technologies recognise quickly its value in facilitating, at the very least, one face-to-face interaction, which more often than not is when a large percentage of deals get closed,” says Mondonedo.