Dubai and Abu Dhabi may be in the midst of battling for the attention of the United Arab Emirates’ growing number of Chinese visitors, but they’re both seeing huge benefits from a delegation of 16,000 Chinese tourists arriving in the UAE on a massive corporate junket.
The Chinese arm of direct-sales beauty company Nu Skin is flying a group of employees to the UAE for an opulent, 10-day vacation extravaganza that’s expected to raise $20 million in tourism revenue for the Gulf state. The details of the trip are staggering: the company reportedly booked 200 full flights, 39,000 hotel beds in 40 hotels, and 409 buses. Visitors will stay at high-end hotels such as the Yas Viceroy, Shangri-La Dubai, and Westin Abu Dhabi. For activities, they’ll not only be able to check out sights like Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, but will also attend Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World theme park and dine at 8,000-person dinners at Yas Marina Circuit. The mass junket is taking place in batches of arrivals that began on April 6 and will go until April 20.
Dubai was prepared for the mass arrivals, setting up extra entry gates at the airport and providing teams to greet the tourists. Abu Dhabi featured welcome signs in Chinese, special welcome gifts, and Chinese-speaking staff. The travel group also had the opportunity to meet with the UAE’s vice president and prime minister, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who posed for pictures with members.
“We are using the Nu Skin experience as a case study in our efforts to attract similar Chinese business here,” said Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, “and are backing up this promotion with major sales pushes this month at Shanghai’s important IT&CM trade fair and next month with a roadshow around the major Chinese cities.”
Nu Skin’s reported reason for the trip is the celebration of bot the company’s 30th anniversary and “record-high profits” for 2013. Called the “Nu Skin success trip,” the expensive junket is aimed at boosting “motivation and team building among sales leaders,” according to the company.
While the direct-sales brand has seen massive profits, it also recently had a run-in with the Chinese government’s business watchdog. The company reported record revenues of $1 billion in mainland China last year, up 292 percent from 2012. In March, China’s State Administration for Industry & Commerce fined the company $781,000 for selling products illegally and misleading consumers. Chinese media outlet People’s Daily has attacked the company for using “brainwashing” to sell products, which created a PR disaster that was much worse for the company’s bottom line than actual amount of the relatively small fine. Nu Skin isn’t the only direct sales beauty company to come under fire in China, where the sales model is only legal under limited conditions. Competitor Avon is also dealing with a China scandal as it faces allegations that it bribed Chinese officials.
For the UAE, the trip is simply a chance to show off the fruits of its efforts to attract Chinese tourists. The state had to compete with the likes Seoul, Macau, and Singapore to host the massive group, which is likely to give a significant boost to its annual number of Chinese visitors, which reached 300,000 last year.