View of part of the Fujairah Corniche and the Hajar Mountains in the Background

Friday, January 4, 2008

Sheikh Zayed’s Vision Must Inspire UAE Tourism

Power to Attract
The company FutureBrand has just released its third Country Brand Index (2007) which indicates how a country’s citizens and the world perceive it. Of special importance is how well a country can project its image or brand and attract tourists. The report says, “Travel and tourism is becoming one of the world’s highest priority industries.” In 2007 the public and private sectors combined are expected to spend almost $1.2 trillion on new Travel and Tourism capital investment worldwide, a figure which is expected to double by 2017. It is worth noting that there were 257 million international tourist arrivals from January to April 2007.

Top Ten Countries
The top ten countries (in order) which were judged by FutureBrand to be the most successful in selling their countries to the world were:
1. Australia
2. USA
3. UK
4. France
5. Italy
6. Canada
7. Spain
8. NZ
9. Greece
10. Japan

UAE a Rising Star
Tourists and tourist destinations change in the eyes and estimation of tourists. The UAE (Dubai in brackets!) was regarded as a tourist destination that was in vogue and rising although the report noted countries that were maintaining or on the wane.

Detailed Ranking
The UAE did not rank in the top ten countries on these factors:

Authenticity (NZ was #1), History (Egypt #1), Art and Culture (Italy #1), Family (Denmark #1), Outdoor Activities and Sport (Australia #1), Beaches (Maldives #1), Natural Beauty (NZ #1), Environmental Concerns (Sweden #1), Rest/relaxation (Maldives #1), Safety (NZ #1), Value for Money (Thailand #1), Nightlife (Spain #1), Friendly Locals and Staff (Australia #1), Most Like to Live in (Canada #1), Easiest to Do Business in (USA #1), Extending a Business Trip (USA #1).

Featuring the UAE
In terms of Resort and Lodging options the UAE came out #1 with the largest number of new properties and boasting a wide variety of options from family accommodation through to a seven star hotel.

As a shopping destination the UAE was #2 (the USA was #1).

As noted above the UAE scored #3 in the Rising Star stakes (after Croatia and China).

For Fine Dining the UAE was #7 (with France #1).

For Conferences the UAE was #5 (USA was #1).

Observations on the Emirates
The UAE is a ‘rising star’ so it is moving steadily in the right direction.

The perceived safety of a destination is critical and any major flare up near the UAE could easily torpedo the UAE tourist industry.

The UAE is listed as ‘UAE (Dubai)’, which recognizes the pull of Dubai but this is also a negative. Many citizens around the world have heard so much of Dubai that they think the country is Dubai or that there is nothing else apart from Dubai to see. Many see Dubai as a place of glitz and brashness so it will not score highly for those who want a holiday in a place with culture, history and authenticity.

Abu Dhabi is staking its future on the attractiveness of its architecture, in becoming a repository for culture and a place where people can enjoy the arts.

Sheikh Zayed’s Vision is Essential
Many commentators have highlighted the rivalry between Dubai and Abu Dhabi and the different ways that these cities are pitching themselves.

Sheikh Zayed captivated the people living on this land with a vision of a country with emirates that would unite for strength, so that all people might benefit from the wealth that was to come from the different states. This has helped the UAE to grow its industry, education and other important sectors.

The UAE tourism industry must recognize and showcase the different strengths that each emirate offers—whether it be shopping, rest and relaxation, adventure, culture—and maximize these in a powerful brand that represents the entire United Arab Emirates.

There is nothing to be gained in Dubai going gung ho in attracting tourists to its city. Dubai’s tourist future depends as much on highlighting Fujairah’s assets with its mountains, adventure pursuits, the seas, the colours, the natural beauty and the history as on promoting its own shopping malls, hotels and indoor ski fields.

Dr. Geoff Pound

Image: FutureBrand logo