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Lessons from orient Dubai, ‘Pearl of the Persian Gulf’

James Momanyi @jamomanyi

Dubai, one of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is in many ways unique. A city-state in the middle of the desert, where it actually rains for only about three days a year, Dubai cultivates an ultra-modern image of dazzling architecture and effortless wealth.

The emirate which is 4,114 square kilometres with a population of about eight million, both in the metropolitan and the metro, last year received an incredible 15.8 million tourists.

But wait for a minute. Kenya with 580,367 square kilometres composed of scenic beaches and staggering game parks and game reserves teeming with wild animals, only received a measly 1.5 million arrivals last year. Cabinet Secretary for Tourism Najib Balala was ecstatic.

“Most source markets have recorded impressive growth last year because of the stronger destination brand following positive visibility and endorsement from recent global recognitions, visitation by high profile individuals and conferences held in Kenya,” he said.

When Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing – the official Dubai Tourism Board – released the figures last week, they said they are on course to attain their vision 2020 of attracting a whopping 20 million tourists a year to the tiny Emirate, often dubbed “The Pearl of the Gulf,” a throwback to times when gathering pearls was a major industry, today the city-state derives most of its revenues from trade.

What is Dubai doing right that Kenya can copy to ramp up its tourist arrivals in this competitive market? Dubai-based Kenyan businessman Jalal Balala says the Dubai Emirate is smaller than some of the game parks in Kenya but co-ordination and synergies between various government and private agencies make service delivery easier and excellent.

He said it is not just the work of department of tourism to market Dubai alone but seamless coordination by everyone. But more importantly, he added, in Dubai they always try to create a new story or idea every day in a big way to catch the attention of everyone around the world.

“People know Dubai for big things from tall buildings like Burj Khalifa, malls like Dubai Mall, big hotels, desert safari to big man-made beaches.

They don’t do things for the small 7-8 million people but for the global market,” said Balala who is the executive director of Al Azizah, a General Trading and events organising company. Kamau Mwaura, a Trade and Marketing Destination consultant based in Dubai, also pointed out that Dubai offers a lot of appeal to discerning travellers from around the world.

The emirate, he said is not only home to some of the world’s popular landmarks like the Burj Khalifa, it offers a host of activities for families and everyone else to enjoy.

“They have tailored events, attractions and experiences such as Dubai Parks and Resorts, IMG Worlds of Adventure and the newly-launched Dubai Safari Park have all been implemented to enhance Dubai’s global appeal among families and experience seekers,” Mwaura told People Daily.

But at the core of Dubai tourism ascendancy is the banishment of politics and creating an enabling and peaceful environment for visitors. According to Mwaura, leaders play good politics geared towards making the country peaceful and conducive for businessmen and visitors.

“Their governance structure is so consistent and predictable such that there is no fighting for power like in other countries.” he said. Last year, tourist arrival in Kenya were dimmed by the volatile and unpredictable political environment that befell the country for better part of the year.

But besides politics, Dubai has managed to provide basic things that most visitors embrace when they visit new lands. These include modern infrastructure like road network, modern city rail system, power, communication infrastructure like internet and telecommunication, which are not only quality but also affordable.

Equally important, Dubai city is one of the most secure places on earth. It is networked by CCTV and police officers are always at hand to respond to any threat.

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