By Sandhya D’Mello
Khaleej Times, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Entrepreneur Hemali Shah says she started her tourism-related venture after she traveled to a remote place in Africa in a cargo plane and saw passengers being treated just about as well as their luggage.
When your passion turns into a commitment, it becomes the sole reason to persevere as an entrepreneur who offers customers experiences they can cherish, says Hemali Shah, managing director of City One Tourism.
The travel and tourism sector in the UAE is one of the most competitive sectors and is currently in a transition phase as most travel companies are trying to boost sales both from online and offline channels, assisting customers to select destinations in their budgets and so on.
“Putting yourself in the customer’s shoes is a must. Remember that we are all customers at some point or the other,” says Hemali.
“The industry is shifting its course from being service providers to solution providers. Customers have now started relying upon us to decide their destinations in a certain budget rather than the earlier approach of fixing the destination and then seeking the best package. This shift from dependence to interdependence should be promoted and noted carefully. Remember that today, you do not sell your customers a tour package but help them buy one.”
Hemali believes that in the UAE market, customer service is the only key to good customer relationship management since this is an era of customer delight and not mere customer satisfaction.
“Artificial Intelligence has empowered service providers and customers alike, with the power to predict as technology evolves. It is pivotal to spread the credibility of service providers. Human interface will be ever pervasive and thus a dynamic salesforce will always be important in the UAE,” she observes.
Entrepreneurship has emerged as one of the most promising platforms and the UAE is at the forefront, says the travel expert.
“The participation of women entrepreneurs has crossed the 20 percent mark already. The government’s policies and ease of doing business have led to more women participants in the industry and it is only destined to grow from here.”
Hemali recalls how a simple observation and perseverance made her start her venture. “I had traveled to a remote place in Africa in a cargo plane and saw passengers being treated similar to their luggage. The episode left a deep impact on me and this converted my passion to a commitment; a commitment to serve travellers with the dignity they deserve; a commitment to help travelers enjoy their leisure time while leaving the hassles to us; a commitment to not only enable the travellers along their journey but also leave a lasting impact on their memories long after the tour is over. This commitment led me to establish City One Tourism and Travel and convert travellers’ dream into reality.”
Hemali shares that she has come a long way from being a paying guest in Abu Dhabi to an entrepreneur in Dubai, a journey of trials and triumphs. “I remember how I lived in Africa with my toddler, then moving to Abu Dhabi as a paying guest. But that has helped me develop a good connect in both the regions,” she adds.
The Mena region offers a strategic location, from where around 60 percent of the world’s population lives within a three hours’ distance.
“The challenges thus gradually converted into opportunities and one thing that helped me along the journey is my positive attitude and determination about the commitment I had made long ago. But, you also need the right people and right team at the right time. I was fortunate to get those,” recalls Hemali.
Multitasking is key to create a balance between work and home and Hemali says while the family is an integral part, so are customers who should be treated as extended family.
“We live in a connected world that never sleeps. So, it is all about time management. I do work at home. But when you enjoy your work, it is like never working at all. I believe in spending quality time with family, which I cherish all the time and that gives me the motivation to work more,” affirms Hemali.
“You should look at your customers as extended family and develop a lasting bond. This not only promotes customer loyalty but also helps you feel at home all the time,” she concludes.