Living for the Good Holiday

 

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Nigel Page of Emirates in front of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

 

Nigel Page is Emirates’ senior vice president of commercial operations for The Americas. In this role, Page is responsible for Emirates’ operations in North America, notably the introduction of the airline’s first non-stop passenger service from New York to Dubai, which launched on June 1, 2004. Page also oversees expansion to other new gateways in the U.S., Canada and South America. Page, who has a long and distinguished career in the airline industry, worked at British Airways and its forerunner, BOAC, starting in 1968 as a reservations agent. He participated in the airline’s first Commercial Officer Trainee course, working in India, Thailand, Scotland, Canada and Uganda before being assigned to Dubai. Here, he shares his observations on how the habits of U.S. travelers are evolving.

Are U.S. travelers less cautious about travel now than they were right after 9/11?

I think they are. Post 9/11 there was a feeling of wanting to stay at home and not wanting to venture abroad too much. But people very quickly got very fed up with this and felt they could be—dare I say—as much at risk at home as they are abroad in so many ways. I had a classic example some years ago with my dear mother who phoned me up when the second Gulf War started in Iraq. She phoned me from Windsor in England and said she was worried, and I said, ‘Look, Mum, you are safer coming up to Dubai than staying in Windsor, so why don’t you come up to Dubai and stay with me?’ And that is reality in a way. If a bomb can go off in London it could happen in New York and I think that people have realized that life is for living and you should really look forward to having a good holiday.

And are you seeing that?

We are. Dubai is becoming increasingly popular with the wealthy people in the U.K. market, with Germany and even with Russia. We see an amazingly high-repeat profile of visitors from those countries to Dubai. They love the quality of the hotels, the standards of service, the beaches, the shopping malls, the desert driving and the sports facilities. We have four PGA golf courses there now. We are seeing more and more people in the States realizing what a great destination Dubai is.

Are families traveling to Dubai?

We see a lot of families coming from the U.K. and Germany; developers recognize this is a huge market. They are building Dubailand—a theme park supposedly double the size of Disney World—and an under-water hotel called Hydropolis, whose construction has just begun. There is going to be a new resort, called Atlantis, The Palm, Dubai, which will be very similar to the Atlantis resort in Nassau, Bahamas.

What other destinations are growing?

We see a lot of beyond-Dubai traffic. People are traveling to the new resorts in India and the south of India. In East Africa people are still very interested in going on safari. We see destinations re-emerging, like Sri Lanka, which is such a beautiful island. The Maldives, Mauritius and the Seychelles are exotic beach destinations that not many people can go to now, but some are discovering it and telling their friends about it.

What are your favorite travel memories?

My wife and I were celebrating our 25th anniversary and she knew that we were going to New York; I purposely showed her some tickets on a 747 flight. When we got to the airport I looked at the monitor and said, ‘Oh look, there is a Concorde flight going earlier. Do you fancy getting there more quickly?’ I then took out two tickets on Concorde and flew her to New York. We spent a few days there, then I took her to JFK, but without telling her where we were going next. We flew to Miami, and I asked her, ‘Have you ever fancied going on a cruise?’ (she had never been on a cruise before), and I pulled out some cruise tickets. So it was all sort a mystery tour I created deliberately.