Readers’ Lives: Helen Burgess

Gold Medal ‘Golden Opportunity’ competition winner

The Adeona Travel partner, a former director of Worldchoice, Triton and The Travel Network Group, won £5,000 to market Dubai in a competition run by Gold Medal, in partnership with Travel Weekly and Dubai Tourism, plus a holiday for two to the emirate. We asked her about the trip and her marketing plans

Q. Why did you enter the Golden Opportunity competition?
A. I thought it would be a good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone and also to invest time thinking about what I could do to boost Dubai sales with the funds proposed. I did some customer research in the shop and asked people what made them want to go to Dubai and what would deter them from going – that gave me a lot of ideas on some strategies to improve sales.

Q. What was the structure and intention of the campaign you proposed to the competition judges?
I proposed ideas to eliminate misconceptions about Dubai, such as that it might not be safe for families. One of these was to create a cartoon character out of the ‘i’ in Dubai that would be seen taking part in different activities suitable for families around the destination on our website, such as water parks and aquariums.

Q. How was your prize trip to Dubai?You said you hadn’t visited since the 1990s. What has changed since then?
A. I went in February with my daughter and we had three nights in the Fairmont Dubai. The areas where all the malls are now were scrubland when I last visited. The coastal strip is drastically different now with so many new hotels. The other thing that struck me was the mind blowing road system and the sweeping curls of the roads. It was more built up than I’d expected. Taxis are very cheap and the weather was generally good, except for the day we were due to go on the 4×4 desert safari, which was cancelled; we’ll have to go back and do that one.

Q. How are you getting on implementing the plans for your new website?
A. We have created the Where’s Wally-type character from the ‘i’, and our website is currently under redevelopment with a new look and feel to incorporate this on the Dubai page. We have hired an external graphic designer and outsourced the work to a web development company. We plan on having a media launch on September 1 and all will be revealed then.

Q. What does this opportunity mean to Adeona Travel?
A. It means we have the chance to market to a new group of customers, and having the money to invest in our digital offering will bring incremental success to our business. As a business we’ve had to change all the time, and how we market Dubai is another adjustment we’ve needed to make.

Helen’s favourite things about Dubai:

1. Innovative:
“From big projects such as The Palm, to smaller things like having a giant Aquarium in the shopping centre, they really do think outside the box to make Dubai a unique destination for visitors.”
2. Family-friendly: “As a destination they really welcome and cater for families, with lots of innovation in ‘family centred’ attractions that are fun and educational.”
3. Authentic: “Dubai is proud of its heritage and culture, and wants tourism to add to the destination.”

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