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MARTINA HUGO Tell Us Yours Story

Martina, you moved to Dubai 20 years ago. What made you choose Dubai in particular?

I was in Dubai for the first time in 1992 on a stopover to Hong Kong and found it somehow very exciting back then. Then, when I happened to get a job offer from Emirates in Dubai, I was of course interested. I definitely wanted to take this adventure. Although I had traveled extensively, this was a part of the world I still wanted to explore.

Flexibility was required and in January 1994 I was the Emirates Group's first Groups/Incentives Manager with my own office on Sheikh Zayed Road with a small team. I still remember very well how I was looked at with astonishment, as a woman, tall and blond, and then also a manager, that was rather unusual here in the Arab world at that time. It was a very exciting time with great events and all without a cell phone, just a pager, where you then ran to the next phone, because calling was still free in Dubai. You can't even imagine that today.

I then went back to Germany for a few years for personal reasons and had my own event agency in Frankfurt, but in 2004 I was drawn to the desert again, because part of my heart always beat for Dubai and so I'm still here today.

How has Dubai changed for you in recent years?


Infected by the Arab world right from the start, I experienced this tremendous development and change in the Emirates myself and I would like to share my extensive experiences about the country, people, culture and history with my customers.

I remember e.g. in 1994 the first and only beach hotel, the Chicago Beach in Jumeirah, where the highlight was them serving pork chops and beer every Friday. Then later Burj Al Arab was built and you could see a lot of the new skyscrapers growing fast in different parts of Dubai and then it happened in quick succession, Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, Metro etc. And then the construction of Palm Jumeirah, I remember a cool New Year's Eve party in the middle of Palm Jumeirah in the sand on the construction site. Sometimes I think back to the good old days with a little nostalgia, when there were no traffic jams in the marina.

So today there is nothing that cannot be done in Dubai. And of course that's very good for our business, because we can offer customers an immense selection of spectacular locations and experiences, and new options are constantly being added. Be it in the city with a great view of the skyline, on the water, in the air or in the desert or mountains.

What fascinates you about UAE?

Yes, this question comes up again and again, I always say Dubai has the 3 S's: SUPER, CLEAN (German: Sauber) and SECURE. I see that as a great quality of life. Of course, there is also the diversity of the different nationalities, be it the many festivals or culinary delights, Dubai is unbeatable when it comes to great restaurants, beach clubs and bars. And it doesn't always have to be expensive, there's something for everyone.

Dubai is a city of contrasts, because in the morning you can immerse yourself in the Arabian history of the Emiratis in Bastakiya on the Creek and take the Abra for 1 AED like in the old days and in the evening you can have the most expensive cocktail with gold in the highest restaurant in the world in the Burj Khalifa.

What makes the UAE special is the service and the smiles of many people, which is something that my German guests in particular notice again and again. You can also discover all this in the other Emirates, each one has its own special charm. And the sun, beach, desert and mountains aren't so bad either, even if sometimes I miss the German forest and the fresh air in summer.

You have a travel tour company and offer private exclusive experiences around Dubai. Tell us a little about it.

German Event Service is the name of my company, which I founded in 2010 and part of it, Emirate Individual, is aimed at individual customers in the tourist or business travel sector. I organize special experiences, whether business events, team building, meetings, incentives or group tours in UAE and Oman.

The private tours are tailored to the wishes of my clients. I don't just rattle off the highlights, I also show my customers places where not everyone can go.

There is something for every budget. I accompany many tours myself and I really enjoy it.

Which tour is the absolute highlight of your offer that you absolutely have to see when you come to Dubai?

Oh that's a really difficult question, but I would say a private individual city tour with us, e.g. Dubai by night, where we usually like to start with a sundowner. This is a super great tour, especially for photo fans, which will definitely be remembered. Then there is the hotel or food tour, where we open doors to unusual locations for the customer that they would certainly not have found by themselves. Also a must is the very popular Nature Trail Tour, where you can experience the desert in all its fascination with a private BBQ dinner in the dunes under the stars. This is very romantic for special occasions or in a group for a private event.

Also possible with an overnight stay. There are many activities e.g. Buggy rides, sandboarding, camel trekking, ballooning.

How can we imagine your everyday life? Do you have something like a routine?

Well, we all have a bit of that, the routine, although it often looks different to outsiders. Tours have to be prepared accordingly, because in Dubai you always have to be up-to-date, as something is constantly changing or something new is added. Since I also accompany many city tours myself, I am always up to date. Then I take care of customer inquiries and bookings. I want this individual contact, that's why I'm available 24/7, which is very much appreciated. Then the selection of my local partners, some of whom I have been working with successfully for many years, a very good network is essential. I just got a new partner so I can help with finding a hotel too. Being self-employed allows a certain amount of flexibility in terms of time, but during the season we are already working many hours a day, be it outside or in the office. The reward is that you meet a lot of great people from all over the world and if they are happy and say that was the best day of their life, then you haven't done anything wrong, right?

And one last question for you. Which 3 tips would you give to people who want to move to Dubai?

Spend a while here, not just on vacation, to see how the city really ticks. A lot is possible here, but you also need the right contacts.

Have enough money in the background to start with and don't believe everything and don't let the wrong people impress you.

Here, too, professional work is a prerequisite for survival.


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