With its modern sky line and quality infrastructure, it is difficult to believe that Dubai in the United Arab Emirates was once a small town of Bedouin traders. Exotic animals used to inhabit the grounds occupied by the present-day Nad al Sheba racetrack Contemporary Dubai has been built beyond reasonable expectations, more so from the stigma which befell a post-Gulf War Arabia. High-technology and high-fashion shops are now as commonplace as the gold souks. Modern Dubai is an eclectic mix of old and new, ancient and modern.
Tourism, cultural tourism particularly, is considered one of the fastest-growing industries globally; with fierce competition being its natural corollary. Dubai is viewed as one of the prime tourist destinations, giving the country a distinct vantage in the arena. Dubai’s relative advantages pertinent to tourism are manifold. First, tourism is a rapidly-growing, huge industry; it is, therefore, a crucial sector that Dubai can take advantage of. Dubai is aptly capable in meeting global standards, being in itself, a set of visions.
Dubai’s global position, as predicted, will be that of an “internationally-recognized hub and destination of choice for cultural tourism”. Dubai’s 2010 vision reiterates this notion, stating a threefold agenda for its long-term goal of becoming an international tourist hub: (1) creating a quality environment conducive to immigration and investment inflows, necessary for enticing a technologically-knowledgeable/skilled human capital base, (2) launching a policy of arts and culture developments, with the creation of an arts center in Dubai, (3) initiating an annual program of cultural activities (e.
g. expositions, concerts, visiting artist performances) to mark its reputation as a modern society. Second, tourism is a highly-unpredictable industry, with trends and factors influential of tourist influx. Factors that positively affect tourism are disposable income increase, transportation cost decrease, tourism package cost decrease, and political stability presence. Travel distance has become an irrelevant tourism factor. Third, competition has spurred creative marketing strategies on the part of tourism providers.
They have started providing leisure and business packages in greater variety, higher quality, and more competitive pricing scheme- thereby boosting the market demand for tourism. With the current trends in tourism at work, the demand being on the favorable side, it is projected that the $ 3. 3 trillion global tourism industry will grow at a 6. 8 % annual rate for the next 10 years. Fourth, the tourism industry is challenged by a body of better-informed and discriminating clientele.
Tourism providers, therefore, need to package destinations in a detail-specific and compelling manner, categorized on the basis of market segmentation, in order to lure prospective tourists. The package destinations can also aim at a wider range of tourists for particular destinations in order to satisfy the market demand. In view of these trends, Dubai must adhere to the aforementioned steps to be able to take advantage of the tourism sector to its fullest. Dubai must maintain research-based equilibrium values per tourist segment, from where tourism providers can base tourist package offers from.
The move is expected to optimize Dubai’s gain from possible tourism-generated revenues. It must also continue upgrading its support services in order to be able to service the increasing flock of tourists, broaden the basis of their motivation for tourism, and eventually, draw more tourists into visiting. A study of tourism’s framework is a requisite for understanding it. According to the Singaporean Board of Tourism website, the tourism landscape is composed of two sections: motivating attraction and supporting services.
Motivating attractions include business tourism, cruise events, honeymoons, and especially, cultural tourism. Supporting services, however, include IT & Communication systems, travel agencies, hotels, entertainment management companies, and computer reservation systems. Cultural activities, in addition, are part of a broader tourism framework; by building on both Motivating Attractions and Supporting Services, Dubai will be able to attract tourists and encourage repeat visits. Cultural Tourism
Cultural tourism is the type of tourism intent on an exploration of and education on the culture of a particular state. The motivating attraction components of cultural tourism are cultural/historical heritage, performing arts (theatre), visual arts and music. The CulturalHistorical Heritage component includes parks sightseeing, tours, cultural events, festivals and fairs. Performing Arts (Theatre) includes musicals, operas, ballet and dance exhibitions, and dramatic and classical performances.
The Visual Arts component includes museums, painting galleries, craft exhibits, and film and photography showcases. Music, however, includes symphonies, orchestras and concerts. Supporting Services for cultural tourism comprise of marketing organizations to promote the Arts and Dubai’s position as a ‘center for the arts’ in the region, operational organizations to collaborate with performing arts talents and IT specialists for marketing, state-of-the-art venues like auditoriums, screening rooms, seminar rooms and staging arenas, and the technology that allows for world-class performances and shows.
This US-based data on cultural tourism illustrates some key characteristics of the tourism demography (regular/cultural tourists), with important implications on the possible benefits from cultural tourism. Research suggests that promoting cultural tourism in Dubai will attract an extremely valuable clientele that will be willing to spend more ($ 174 average difference) and lengthen the duration of their visit (4% difference). Cultural tourism promotion, research also suggests, increases the likelihood of drawing clients with more advanced ages (48 vs.
46 average, 3% difference in retired tourists demography) and educational backgrounds (3% difference in graduate degree-holding status). Hosting such a demography is a boost for promoting Dubai as the ‘image leader’ in the region, an immense contribution to the knowledge economy. The National Assembly of State Arts agencies website asserts that some economic and cultural trends has had a huge impact on cultural tourism statistics. First, there has been a general rise in affluence and education level trends.
Second, the United Arab Emirates has bore witness to cultural diversity; with expatriates now accounting for more than 75% of the UAE population. Third, an increase in the economic role and education of women had women typically setting up vacation plans. Fourth, a lesser time for leisure which is a mark of modern society increased the demand for and placed emphasis on shorter and value-added trips. Lastly, there has been an intensified influence of technology in every domain; an increased awareness of cultural issues therefore effected in tourists demanding a greater variety of cultural activities.
These trends imply favorable growth prospects for cultural tourism in Dubai. Analyzing Dubai’s situation, it is evident that the current cultural tourism landscape is insufficient. Cultural Tourism Activities in Dubai are on a small-scale, fragmented, and uncoordinated way, and bereft of independent quality check and strategic guidance. The Dubai Explorer 2002 has it that the only activities/establishments which garnered a medium rating on the concentration graph were Dubai’s six (6) parks (Creekside Park, Mushrif Park, Rashidiya Park, Safa Park, Al Mamzar Beach and Jumeira Beach Park).
The Performing Arts Division (comprising of nine (9) groups and clubs), the Visual Arts Sector (composed of four (4) galleries) and Falconry Division’s three (3) centers were noted as having the lowest concentrations. Dubai, however, is not deficient in Venues for Musical and Theatrical Performances which include: seven (7) venues for Classical Concerts (e. g. Crowne Plaza Hotel), six (6) venues for Theatrical Performances (e. g. a 500-seat Community Theater built in 2002 near Nad Al Sheba) and fifteen (15) venues for Dance/Pop Concert Events.
These numbers are suggestive of the budding need for appropriate staging facilities and equipment; the demand for performance venues having been predicted. Comparing the aforementioned figures to a cultural tourism-investing country’s infrastructure statistics will reveal some startling differences. The data has it that Dubai has 80% the GDP/capita of Hong Kong but pales in comparison with regard to cultural infrastructure- with only 15% the number of museums and 0% the number of theaters and arenas.
Based on these ratios, Dubai should have at least 10 museums and 5 theaters in order to parallel Hongkong’s status as a tourism spot. The Cultural Tourism Industry Group and the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies websites specify the apparent quality and tourism potential of museums, art galleries, concert halls, historic sites, and national and state parks as main considerations influencing cultural tourists. The organization of cultural events, festivals and fairs is a consideration too. With an understandably hectic itinerary, the logistics scheme and accompanying amenities also count.
Some of these features have already been instituted/organized in Dubai such as national and state parks, cultural events, festivals and fairs. These institutions/affairs are considered highly-competitive and very manageable. On the other hand, theaters, concert halls and archeological sites are basically non-existent. The construction of theaters and concert halls are reasonable, achievable objectives as exemplified by the construction of a 500-seat Community Theater (built in 2002 near Nad Al Sheba).
The contrary holds for establishing archeological sites, a challenging feat. The creation of and investment in organizational networks in Dubai that promote cultural activities will beget ample dedication which will enable cultural organizations to fund, foster and implement innovative ideas crucial to the development of cultural activities. In addition, the implementation of high-impact activities will command the highest visibility and draw a significant number of tourists.
Those projects are intent on Cultural Tourism which is currently unavailable in Dubai. Cultural Tourism necessitates the creation of a dedicated oversight committee within the DTCM structure to: (1) coordinate with the private sector regarding the development of projects, (2) fund and foster the development of different project concepts, and (3) assist in projects implementation to foster the development of cultural activities. Possible High-Impact Projects Cultural Tourism necessitates an identification of viable high-impact activities for implementation.
Possible projects include: (1) the construction of a culture complex (Barbican or Lincoln Center model-based), (2) the construction of an opera house (London’s Royal Albert Hall-modeled), (3) erection of a major performing arts venue (in joint effort with the private sector’s Community Theater project currently underway), (4) the erection of a concert hall (in partnership with Moscow for purposes of production and guidance), (5) the initiation of a desert arena, (6) hosting cultural events and activities, and (7) erection of art cinema houses for Indie Films (NYC’s Angelica Theater-based).
Moreover, there is an apparent need for an amendment in Dubai’s existing laws on private ownership to further the development of cultural tourism in this region. In a 1999 DTCM survey, as posted in the HK Leisure and Cultural Services Department website, a majority of the respondents specified the scarcity of peculiar activities and sightings in Dubai. The respondents criticized the offered cultural activities as being small-scale, fragmented and uncoordinated.
These survey results support the need for improvements in cultural tourism infrastructure, developments in ongoing cultural activities, and initiation of high-impact projects. The DTCM, with its current organizational setup, is ill-equipped for a full development of cultural services. A labor force comparison between the DTCM and the HK L&C Services Department yielded startling results; the HK L&C Services Department has 26 times more employees.
There is an immense need to foster a dedicated organization, in charge of coordinating the development of cultural activities in the region. The organizational setup will be based on the Hong Kong model where its primary role would be to act as the central node of cultural activities in the region. Other organizational responsibilities include: (1) promotion of cultural performances, (2) provision of support to festival organizers and private companies, and (3) offer of audience-aimed educational programs, and (4) overall logistical operations (e. g.
venues and ticketing). Conclusion It is evident that the dearth of cultural facilities and cultural activities has brought Dubai to a tourism disadvantage. Cultural facilities/activities have been described, aptly or otherwise, as being small-scale, quality control-bereft, and seemingly uncoordinated with other cultural tourism authorities. Established institutions, however, such as the Dubai Museum, Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding, and the Dubai Natural History Group have potentially important roles in boosting Dubai’s cultural tourism prospects.
Currently, there is an insufficient government emphasis in Cultural Tourism, although an AED 10M Dubai Community Theatre project which is currently underway is definitely a step in the right direction. An expedient cultural tourism infrastructure will facilitate Dubai’s agenda of drawing a desirable demographic, generating ample revenues from increased expenses and lengthened travel duration on tourists’ part, and according Dubai the status of an ‘image leader’ in the world.
Furthermore, it is expected to heighten students’ thespic awareness and enthusiasm, sufficient encouragements for the scholarly and professional pursuit of the Arts. An overall improvement in the quality of life is expected with the creation of an inculturated tourism experience; creative arts specialists and cultural promotion companies will then be drawn to Dubai. Implications The magnitude of Dubai’s long-term agenda has various implications for the government and support systems, and marketing and production logistics.
For one, a high degree of government support is entailed, more so that the need to institute a governmental agency for cultural promotion purposes presents itself. Secondly, creating partnerships with relevant local and overseas organizations is required for the promotion and improvement of Dubai’s Art and Culture. Third, the creation of specialized umbrella organizations, like a National Heritage Board or an Arts Council, is a significant assistance to the government for a more focused management.
Fourth, the government has to support, subsidize and grant incentives to private sector initiatives in support of Dubai’s cultural tourism agenda (e. g. museum foundation, arts organizations). Lastly, there is a need for the government to set guidelines and policies directed on an effective management of cultural facilities, heritage conservation and tourist education. Support services have their own share of responsibilities. First, the management of major facilities, such as stadiums and performance venues, will ensure organizers a constant facility access and facility maintenance.
Second, there is a need for the implementation of an accessible and automated ticketing system, possibly with the use of the Internet, to ensure a widespread distribution and expediency. Third, the endowment of financial support to festivals, events organizers, museums’ administration and arts organizations can be a tourism marketing tool. Lastly, the Internet is an effective marketing instrument with a global domain; therefore, creating websites and publishing electronic newsletters on cultural tourism is an information dissemination option.
Dubai’s cultural tourism agenda has peculiar implications for marketing and production logistics. First, ticket pricing has to be reasonable and demand-based; with discount offerings for senior citizens, students and children, and price markdowns on special occasions and for promotional means. Second, an effective marketing strategy is key to succeeding in this arena; to participate and organize sales missions, trade and tourism fairs, consumer fairs and other promotional events is therefore necessary.
Third, cultural organizers have to be responsible for audience-briefing on cultural themes in order to help the audience appreciate different cultural performances. Lastly, an educated domain is a boost to cultural tourism; therefore, the provision of educational programs addressed to students (lectures, workshops, seminars and symposia) and the encouragement of learning institutions to participate in cultural activities will significantly bolster Dubai’s tourism agenda. Dubai’s vision has crucial implications for production logistics too.
First, affairs organizers have a wide array of production options ranging from traditional repertoires to avant-garde creative performances. Organizers have a corollary responsibility of heeding consumer demand and garnering independent ideas; providing a means for the submission of independent project proposals is therefore requisite. Second, it is the organizers’ privilege and responsibility to provide performance opportunities to both established and upcoming local artists and groups.
Third, there is an organizer responsibility for a performance venue planning and management, with a corollary need for the constant enhancement and upgrading of performance facilities. Lastly, production organizers have to establish and be of support to local professional artists groups like philharmonic societies, dance companies and orchestras. With a competent strategy and ample guidance, Dubai’s 2010 Vision of Cultural Tourism need not be an impossibility!