What new initiatives is GAA-Marta Consulting involved in? What are your growth and expansion plans?
OWEN: Quite a big initiative is that, as part of a group, we are launching Paramount Hotels and Resorts in conjunction with and under license from Paramount Film Studios in Los Angeles. That has just been launched at the Arabian Travel Market. For Marta Consulting, we are a tourism and travel investment development organization, not just representation. We have been in discussion with a number of ministers in countries about helping them develop their tourism further and take new products and investment into each of their countries.
What are the biggest trends in the tourism industry at the moment?
OWEN: What we are seeing through our experience, and we bring in about 1.1m tourists a year into Dubai alone, is that people are moving towards relaxation, spas, and entertainment. While they might do some sightseeing, we believe the days of everyone on the bus going to see the Eiffel Tower or going to see something else are over. Certainly for the kids, as they say they’ve already seen the Eiffel Tower on the internet. This is the case with modern technology. People are looking more towards lifestyle, wellness, entertainment, relaxation, beaches, and taking a holiday not a runaround.
What impact has the Internet had on the tourism sector?
OWEN: It is a key booking engine and it is a family decision maker. There is no more having to go to the high streets to troll around and carry home shopping bags full of hundreds of brochures. You probably find that most households, the son or the daughter and the mum and dad have his or her own laptop or computer in their room. It is an in-house brochure search engine for booking. They can book trips immediately, so it has made a major impact.
What are the biggest niches in the tourism market that are primed for growth in the next couple of years?
OWEN: Experience shows what the niches are, such as hotels and resorts in one place with entertainment. I do not simply mean all-inclusive with one or two live shows, but something like what Paramount is bringing, such as movie and Broadway musical entertainment as a key solution for entertainment, including some sort of theme park attractions so you do not have to leave the resort. The other niche is going back to what I said earlier about relaxation. Spas and wellness centers are having a huge impact on destinations and resort choices.
Destinations have to rebrand and evolve new product to meet the current trends, such as relaxation spas. Additionally, there are a lot of emerging markets coming up now, such as Namibia and South Africa, and everyone is keeping an eye on the Far East because that is going to be booming.
How has destination branding evolved over the years? What do specific destinations need to do to stay relevant?
OWEN: As the world has grown smaller, there are established destinations that are continuously rebranding and refocusing and bringing in new product. As I said earlier, people are not doing so much sightseeing. They may do one or two trips. Destinations have to rebrand and evolve new product to meet the current trends, such as relaxation spas. Additionally, there are a lot of emerging markets coming up now, such as Namibia and South Africa, and everyone is keeping an eye on the Far East because that is going to be booming. Turkey has grown and rebranded several times and has even rebranded its airline. There is this continuous pattern of having to develop new brands to keep awareness, high profile, and get out there into the market.