With the conclusion of the Arabian Travel Market last week, the tourism industry returns to the task of preparing for the busy summer travel season. Hans Haensel spoke to Gulf News about his company's plans and its business to Lebanon and Iran.
Gulf News: What are your greatest challenges?
Haensel: Short-term bookings. By this I mean short-lead times. It is a challenge because it's difficult for the customer to appreciate the range of logistics that goes into organising a holiday - from their preferred flight timings and hotel to ground itinerary and special requests.
Emirates Holidays' bookings went down 50 per cent for Lebanon's vacations in 2006. What are the prospects for Lebanon's holiday industry to recover?
For some years now, the industry has got used to the cyclical nature of tourism in Lebanon and it is not any different now. We firmly believe that the holiday industry in Lebanon will bounce back soon.
Iran has fantastic skiing opportunities. What is the potential? Why hasn't it taken off yet?
A limiting factor with Iran's skiing industry is related to lack of infrastructure. Given the globalisation of the tourism industry, you'll find that Iran and other similar destinations are already gearing up for international tourists or thinking of doing so in the near future.
You spend $10 million or more on brochures. When will we have everything online and in electronic form?
Yes, we spend a significant amount in direct and indirect costs for putting together our brochures, not just in printing and distribution costs but also in the time and effort taken to assess the different properties, communicate with tour operators and in marrying everything together.
The travel industry is surely moving online with tour operators, hotels and websites offering a plethora of services.
But there continues to be huge sections of consumers and the travel industry who enjoy face-to-face interaction, especially when decision-making involves more than one person.
Is this an exciting time for Emirates Holidays and why?
Absolutely, we have just launched our biggest set of brochures and an all-new brochure on Dubai and the Emirates. We are launching holidays to exciting new destinations this year including Brazil and Tunisia and to cities such as Nagoya, Bangalore and Kolkata.
We had a fabulous financial year in 2006-07. We forecast tremendous growth in the travel industry in Dubai and in the Middle East, and we intend to be at the forefront of this growth.