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Fri 2 Apr 2010 04:00 AM

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A brand new vision

After 25 years spearheading Net Group, Ali Abu Monassar has launched The Vision Destination Management. He tells ATN about his new approach to regional tourism.

A brand new vision
Ali Abu Monassar.
A brand new vision
The team at The Vision Destination Management.

After 25 years spearheading Net Group, Ali Abu Monassar has launched The Vision Destination Management. He tells ATN about his new approach to regional tourism . Some might say that launching a brand new Destination Management Company in the current climate might be a somewhat risky move. Visitor numbers to the region are still taking a hit due to the global economic crisis, and competition for business is fierce, with a plethora of tour operators all seeking to offer tourists their services of desert safaris, dune bashing and dhow cruises.

But The Vision Destination Management, which came into being just three months ago, has had no problems getting off the ground. In fact, Chairman Ali Abu Monassar reveals proudly that his new company is positively thriving, and the buzzing head office in Deira bears testament to this fact. This is no doubt down to Monassar's reputation as something of a pioneer in the local tourism and travel industry. After 25 years spearheading Net Group, the oldest and biggest DMC in the region, Monasser decided to call time on his position as head of the company due to what he refers to as a "divergence in opinion with our partners", and has branched out on his own with The Vision DMC.

Just a few months in and Monassar's ‘vision' already boasts three branches in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman, and has made a major name for itself by being appointed ground handler for two of the region's biggest travel trade shows - the Gulf Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM) in Abu Dhabi at the end of March, and the Arabian Travel Market (ATM) in Dubai in May. Added to that, his team is flat out handling back to back incentive groups of over 250 people each arriving from Italy for the coming ten weeks.

So how has he managed to achieve all this in such a short space of time? Monassar puts it down to the strength of his relationships within the tourism industry that he has spent the past 25 years building up. "When you change it's the time to know who are your friends and who are not your friends.

And I think we have had a very very positive reaction from the market - from suppliers, from clients, from associations and also from corporates who we have collaborated with for a long time. When I started at Net Tours it took three or four years to build up that recognition and trust. Today in two months, thanks to being involved and committed all the time to the industry here and internationally it has given a good result."The "divergence of opinion" that Monassar referred to, has led to him taking his own company down a different path to that of Net Tours, and its competitors. He is convinced that the business model has to change for Destination Management companies today, and much of this is down to the impact of the global financial crisis on inbound tourism to the region.

"[The crisis] has changed the market; it's changed the perception of the market, how to work with people and how to find new business. I felt it was necessary to change the style of management and to make certain action plans. Our partner didn't agree and we felt that we could not manage something which our partners did not believe in."

With The Vision, Monassar says he will steer well away from providing tours to the individual leisure traveller, and will instead focus heavily on the MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) sector which he describes as "absolutely booming".

"We are moving our company away from normal excursions, tours and individual FITs, over to the high-level market, which is incentives, conferences, exhibitions and very high-spending leisure travellers. It's not mass tourism. Yes, absolutely it is tougher to find, it is not everyday business, but the competition is less, and the margin is higher."

"Our new company has come at a very good time," he adds. "A lot of the infrastructure in Dubai is now ready, prices have gone down and it's become more affordable. Before we did not have space to accommodate meetings [in Dubai], but today we have more options, more facilities, more hotels and we have more accessibility through the budget. So that segment which was undeveloped in the past is today coming in strongly and that is our specialisation."

Monassar says The Vision will be differentiating itself from its competitors on the kind of tailor-made incentives it is able to offer clients. "We are creating that touch which nobody else has got. People say they want a local experience; they would like to eat with Emiratis, go into the house of Emiratis.  Those are things which I think other people are not able to provide. It's a matter of accessibility. We try to combine the leisure and comfort of the destination with some heritage and local experience."

"We have 25 years of expertise in this market. During those years we have learnt a lot and we have made a lot of mistakes and we want to avoid those mistakes and provide that expertise to our clients."

With two major exhibitions coming up, and further exciting projects in the pipeline Monassar admits he has barely had a moment to pause for breath since the company took off. For the future he says business is poised to take off as the tourism to the region bounces back from the crisis over the coming year.

"I think that by the end of 2010 we may be doing double what we are doing today. I believe that 2011 will be the year to bring back our business to 2007 and 2008 levels. The crisis will be over and the destination will have more availability, and it will be more affordable. 2011 will be absolutely the year of confirmation for us."

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