Government officials from Dubai are expected to expand existing agreements and launch new ones with top Chinese travel and tech companies to further promote Dubai as a destination for the Chinese outbound tourism market. Dubai Tourism, the city’s DMO, is casting a wide net with these efforts, seeking to partner with Tencent, operator of WeChat; Fliggy, the online travel agency operated by Alibaba; and Huawei, the cell-phone manufacturer and telecom giant.
Dubai is partnering with three of China’s biggest tech companies: Huawei, Tencent, and Alibaba
Seeking partnerships with major tech companies can often be an ideal way to promote a destination digitally in the Chinese market. Still, the wide-variety of alliances that Tourism Dubai is seeking is somewhat unusual. For one, while Tencent and Alibaba’s core businesses are social media and e-commerce respectively, they have become major competitors in the Chinese outbound travel space, each attempting to make their mobile payment platforms, WeChat Pay and Alipay, more popular among Chinese tourists.
It’s possible that Tourism Dubai is merely exploring as many options as possible to see what works, and what doesn’t, when marketing in the Chinese tourism market. Dubai has seen impressive growth in the number of Chinese arrivals, but it is still far outstripped by other global premium destinations. For the year between January and March, Dubai attracted 258,000 Chinese arrivals, up 12 percent compared to the same period last year.
From January to March this year, Chinese arrivals to Dubai were up 12 percent over last year
The partnerships with Dubai Tourism, however, do not involve sectors in which the two giants are directly competing. Tencent has backed major OTAs, including Meituan-Dianping. Nonetheless, the companies primary role in the outbound travel market is digital marketing through the social media and messaging app WeChat. The city of Dubai already has a CityExperience mini-program, an in-app digital travel guide.
Dubai Tourism’s partnership with Alibaba will primarily seek to directly promote sales of tickets and bookings for Dubai on the OTA Fliggy. While Fliggy is far from China’s most prominent OTA, it has a dedicated following with Chinese millennials and FITs. The partnership between Fliggy and Tourism Dubai will feature promotions and expanded Dubai-tourism content on the OTA’s platform.
However, it’s the partnership with Huawei that is the most unusual. While Huawei is one of China’s most important tech companies, it has made very few forays into the Chinese tourist market. The partnership will see Huawei placing Dubai travel guides on the company’s smartphones and make them available on the Huawei app store. Dubai Tourism’s previous agreement had Huawei loading images of major Dubai tourist attractions, like the Burj Khalifa and Atlantis, The Palm, on Huawei phones.