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Thu 30 Nov 2006 08:00 PM

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Agent fam trip: Beijing

Travel agents who took part on a fam trip to China realised the country’s huge potential and used the knowledge they gained to actively sell the destination for next summer

Air China recently invited a small group of travel agents from some of Dubai’s leading agencies on a six-day fam trip to China, to introduce them to what the destination has to offer leisure tourists.

Air China’s sales manager in Dubai, Atty Kurian, accompanied seven agents on a two-centre trip to Beijing and Shanghai, where they visited some of the country’s key tourism attractions.

The agents spent the first four nights in the Shangri-La Hotel, Beijing, and visited key landmarks such as the Forbidden City, the Great Wall of China, Tiananmen Square and the Summer Palace.

They also had the chance to sample the local nightlife and some of Beijing’s most popular shopping districts, both of which are popular activities with GCC visitors, according to Kurian.

In Shanghai, the group spent two nights at the Pudong Shangri-La, Shanghai.

They visited the Yuyuan Gardens, and went to an observation deck on the 88th floor of the Jinmao Tower, where they were treated to panoramic views of Pudong.

China has always been a popular destination with business travellers, but it has remained in relative obscurity for most holidaymakers until very recently.

As China’s tourism industry develops, Middle East-based travel agencies are taking a keen interest in what the country has to offer.

Air China currently operates four direct weekly flights from Dubai to Beijing and one flight every Wednesday from Kuwait, via Karachi, but there are plans to add two more direct Dubai-Beijing flights next month (January).

ATN asked two of the agents who went on the trip to explain how it had developed their product knowledge and aided their outbound business.

Manav James, corporate leisure consultant, MMI Travel, Dubai:

“My perception of China was totally changed upon arrival.

We visited one Arabic restaurant in Beijing and one in Shanghai, so now we can assure Arabic clients that there is Halal food.

Communication is still a bit of a problem, but people try to help you however they can.

When we came back I had some good customers movements to China.

Because I have first hand experience, I can relate that to the client.

When people venture into an unknown country for the first time, they can be a little bit sceptical or hesitant, until you give them the confidence to go and explore it.

We have sent four high profile Arabic families to China [since the trip].

They stayed five nights in Beijing and four nights in Shanghai, and then they moved on to Korea and Japan.

They originally only wanted to go to Korea and Japan, but I suggested China and they went.”

Varghese Daniel, manager corporate travel, Kanoo Travel, Dubai:

“Some of the facilities for families are not there yet, such as theme parks and water parks, but the Chinese Government is planning those projects and preparing the country for tourism in a big way.

I think it’s a very sought after destination already; it is a relatively new country for tourism, and not so many people know about it yet, but with the new flight from Emirates, and an increased number of flights from Air China, I think it is going to be a huge market.

The competition between the carriers means that the flight prices are low, and it makes it easy to sell it as a holiday package.”

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