Initiated with great optimism in the second half of the 1980s, tourism planning in Dubai and the other Emirates has managed in a decisive manner to surpass the most rosy expectations, establishing itself as one of the industries with major impact, to the point that it has comfortably exceeded the turnover of the oil sector.
Yet economic results of such importance are certainly not the result of luck, on the contrary. In effect, it was HH Sheik Zayed in primis, followed by partners from the other Emirates, who brilliantly divined the enormous tourism potential of the area, which, it must be said, were emerging from a dark period in which the social and economic discomfort of the population had become progressively more pressing. Having a firm belief meant investing in infrastructure, education, environmental protection, links, promotion and communications.
The feedback is glowing: economic growth for the UAE Federation continues at a constant high level, without, however, any slowing down of the sizeable investments which proceed throughout the territory. Resting on one’s laurels is not part of the cultural attitude in the Arab Emirates, which are endowed with exceptional dynamism and farsightedness, thanks to which even areas which are not as much in the foreground are undergoing phases of great economic expansion, and, as a consequence, improvement in the standard of living for the local population.
The capital itself, Abu Dhabi, is strongly increasing its business and leisure tourist offer, followed in turn by the other five smaller Emirates, all splendidly situated by the sea on the Arabian Gulf and, in the case of Fujairah, on the Indian Ocean, rich in marine life, fringed with atmospheric beaches with the finest sand and therefore able to offer all the prerequisites for high class tourism, supported by the warm climate of the Arabian Peninsula.
Yet it is the receptive facilities, for free time, for sport, the shopping centres, the historical, artistic and cultural heritage, the infrastructures, the transport links and the proverbial hospitality and professionalism of the population which make the United Arab Emirates one of the most sought after destinations in the world. A population, what is more, which represents an incredible variety of origins, given that only about 30% of residents are originally from the place, while the remaining 70% come from other Middle eastern countries, from India, China and in general the south east of Asia.
Some figures can give the exact dimension of the UAE tourism phenomenon: the total GDP of the capital Abu Dhabi receives a contribution from tourism in the measure of 1.2%, equal to around 700 million Euros per year – yet if, on the other hand, one considers the total GDP of the non petroleum sector, it corresponds to as much as 3%.
Even more sensational figures regard Dubai, which already in 2005 hosted over 6.1 million visitors (compared to the one million, two hundred thousand guests in the capital): relations which further confirm how future growth in tourism for Abu Dhabi and the other five Emirates can be no other than exponential. In effect, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) has set itself the objective of reaching a level of three million visitors a year by 2015, targeting one half in business and the other in leisure.
Apart from increasing the number of available hotel rooms, ADTA aims decisively at massive promotional campaigns, which foreground the receptive facilities and the standard of living in the area, activated via all the mass media (with great emphasis given to those most technological) as well as participating in a proactive mannerat all the major world trade fairs in tourism and, at the same time, organising others on its own territory. Staying in the Arab Emirates is a real surprise… Here, as opposed to other destinations, reality exceeds the advertising promises and what one expects on the basis of promotional materials seen or heard often emerges as inferior to what one actually finds in the Arab Emirates. Perhaps the famous saying reality beats imagination had its origin right here ...
Photograph provided courtesy of Dubai’s DTCM
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