Now head of Momento DMC based in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Oman and Doha, Mohamed Trabelsi is one of the many Tunisian talents who have flourished abroad. He tells us about his career path and shares his views on the keys to Dubai’s success and the revival of MICE in Tunisia.
How did you get from Tunis to Dubai?
In 2003, I finished my studies at the Institut des Hautes Etudes Touristiques in Sidi Dhrif and was recruited for a six-month internship at the newly opened Hyatt Dubai. I stayed there for 9 years and rose to the position of Sales Director in charge of MICE.
This period corresponded to Dubai’s boom as a destination, and we had to manage growing international demand.
In 2012, I opted to switch to a major DMC, Alpha Tours, and then finally decided to strike out on my own by creating Momento in Dubai. We then set up branches in Abu Dhabi, then Oman and, more recently, Doha for the Football World Cup at first then we decided to continue due to the huge potential the destination presents.
As a DMC, how do you divide your business between conventions and incentives?
We tend to specialize in incentives, which account for 70% of our business, and the remainder in conventions, particularly for our corporate clientele and association business.
In 2019, Dubai was ranked as the world’s leading destination for associations in terms of both number of conventions and number of delegates. Have the Dubai authorities targeted associations in particular?
Yes, they have even created structures that contribute to this: the Dubai Business Associates, like the ICCA (International Congress & Convention Association) Academy of Gastronomy, contributes to Dubai’s attractiveness to associations. By targeting associations, they made the choice of quality and volume; the smallest congress of the targeted associations has a few thousand participants.
It’s also worth recalling Dubai’s strong communication, supported by the country’s highest authorities, as well as its rich nightlife, the presence of the world’s leading gastronomic brands, etc., all of which have contributed to Dubai’s success in becoming the world’s number one destination.
Is it the formula for Tunisia’s success?
Each country has to do its own thing, according to its own objectives and resources. But one thing is certain: success in the MICE business is first and foremost linked to the country’s image. And it’s important for this image to be promoted by the country’s highest authorities, because MICE clients are decision-makers, investors and heads of companies and large organizations. Personally, I attend a lot of destination presentations, but I’ve never been as impressed as I was by the one given by Rwanda’s President Paul Kagamé.
I believe that Tunisia’s potential is immense (nature, history…) and that, to leverage on it, we first need a change of mentality. Lack of resources cannot justify the absence of promotion and non-participation in the few major specialized trade shows.
The destination is starting to revive with the arrival of international brands such as Four Seasons, Hilton and Mariott, and the existence of creative local DMCs, which are still rare but do exist.
Indeed, while the choice of destination is based first and foremost on its reputation and then on the quality of the hotel, the final decision – particularly for incentives – is very much down to the DMC’s ability to create the “wow factor” in the programs on offer.
Our role as DMCs is not to repeat the same programs as our competitors, but to guarantee our client, the event agency, that it will stand out from the crowd with an original and therefore unique program.
To sum up, I’d say that the reputation of the destination and the hotel are reassuring, and that the DMC’s professionalism makes the final decision.