ONE may ask what makes the city of Dubai so special for many, especially for Saudi families, and a favorite destination for shopping and tourism — regional and worldwide. This city has a special magic that attracts visitors to come and visit more than once a year. We all know that regional political disturbances and varying global immigration rules have played an important role in promoting Dubai as a safe destination for Saudi families. But these are not the only reason for Dubai’s allure.
What made me write this opinion this week was the fact that I was on a short visit to Dubai and arrived last Saturday (the day before yesterday) and during my stay in the emirate I met with many Saudis who are frequent visitors to this great city. And during interactions with my Saudi brethren, also soaking in the ambience of Dubai, the main refrain I got from them was, “to them Dubai is an addiction”. A sentiment I too share to some extent.
Whenever there is a vacation, even if it is a short one, Dubai is most likely to be the destination of choice for the majority of vacationers. The lifestyle of Dubai, variety in restaurants, abundance of movie theaters and other public attractions is what has made this city so special to them. I couldn’t agree more with what they say as I too love the city so much because of its diversity and the excellent infrastructure in its every aspect.
According to statistics published in a local daily, the percentage of Saudi tourists visiting Dubai increased by 6 percent in 2016 to reach 1.64 million visitors, which is 11 percent of the total number of visitors to the city, estimated at 14.9 million visitors. The amount Saudis spend in tourism abroad is in billions, and that’s what makes the Saudi market attractive — not only for regional tourism players but to global tourism authorities. The number is expected to reach 2.5 million Saudis by 2020.
Just a few weeks ago, we, in Saudi Gazette, received top officials from the Dubai government responsible for the promotion and marketing of tourism. They were seeking ways to collaborate and promote Dubai as an attractive destination. I was a bit surprised because in my opinion Dubai did not need any marketing as the city markets itself very well.
What was evident that the authorities are not sitting on the laurels, but are micro-managing to embellish the touristic experience. Despite the excellent work Dubai government is doing to make the city perfect, the officials believed that they are lacking in their efforts and are not doing enough to promote the new attractions and services provided. A normal management would have looked at the numbers achieved and would have begun basking in the achievements and said the effort has yielded fruit and that was enough. But for the Dubai management it seems they like to start from where they finish and take new challenges head on, as the road to excellence has no finishing line.
I was amused by many things during the conversation and we were told that they aspire to excel when it comes to services provided to public and enroll anyone providing unique and stellar services to public, in training others for a better performance. Citing an example, one of the officials told us a story of a passenger, who was not satisfied with the performance of a passport official at the immigration counter. The passenger felt that he had somehow been slighted. He filed a complaint and it was acted upon swiftly. On receipt of the complaint, the authorities immediately contacted the airport that was quick to identify the staff member involved. Later the authorities gave him training on how to deal with public in order to improve his performance. And it paid off.
I ask if this is the mentality of the people who are in planning, followed by impeccable execution of the vision and aims, imagine where Dubai would be in the future?
Dubai has proven to be a perfect destination also for people who want to do business. The city has managed to attract large number of Saudi capital to invest in Dubai and to be the starting point for their business. I was told by many people doing business out there, and it is proven anyway, that it is easier to set up a business meeting with foreign businessmen in Dubai than to invite the businessmen to Saudi Arabia because of the lengthy visa procedures.
This city has taught people how to respect the law, even in the physical absence of a police officer. The funny part is that even the citizen who violates the law in the Kingdom, and then when he visits Dubai toes the line, is amazed by the city’s traffic law and general order. Dubai is the city that rose from the grips of an economic crunch and visualized the need to diversify and realized its aims with diligence and definite goals. It came up with giant projects, executed them and is still planning for even bigger and better projects, while promising more streamline and better services.
We should learn a lot from how the city transformed from what it was in 1991 until now. It is turning out to be a model city in the world, and it is not I who is saying it, but the beeline of people from all over the world to this city that emphasizes it.
— The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org