Tourism in Dubai: Overcoming Barriers

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INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF TOURISM RESEARCH Int. J. Tourism Res. 8, 87–99 (2006) Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com) DOI: 10.1002/jtr.557

Tourism in Dubai: Overcoming Barriers to Destination Development Joan C. Henderson* Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798 ABSTRACT The Middle East as a whole attracts comparatively few visitors, and political events in the current century have generated new uncertainties and tensions which seem likely to further discourage tourists and investors. Additional barriers relate to poor accessibility, a perceived lack of conventional attractions and limited promotion. Despite these apparently unfavourable circumstances, international tourism has been adopted by the Dubai authorities as a core element in a programme of economic diversification. They have invested heavily in expensive facilities, as well as undertaken extensive marketing, and the outcome has been strong growth in tourism. There are great expectations of the future, reflected in the setting of very high arrival targets. However, there are also several constraints that might inhibit progress, with a need to review strategies. The experience of Dubai thus serves to illustrate factors that are critical to destination development, major impediments and approaches to overcoming these. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Received 15 March 2005; Revised 6 July 2005; Accepted 18 January 2006

INTRODUCTION

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ertain countries of the Middle East have faced exceptional tourism development challenges and continue to do so. Dubai, however, has demonstrated an ability to overcome any of these it shares and establish itself as a relatively popular destination with a high tourism growth rate. It is therefore an interesting example of a more successful Middle East tourism centre that is creating new opportunities and realising its potential. As such, Dubai merits examination and this paper explores the pattern of development there and its underlying dynamics within the context of factors that are critical to destination development and barriers obstructing such a process. After an opening section explaining the choice of analytical framework, a brief summary of tourism in the wider area and United Arab Emirates (UAE), to which Dubai belongs, is presented in order to set the scene. This is followed by discussion of Dubai’s positive attributes and an evaluation of future challenges before a conclusion which comments on any general lessons to be learned from the particular experiences of Dubai. Findings are derived from an analysis of secondary data, material provided by official agencies and fieldwork observations and the main focus is on leisure travel from markets outside the region. DESTINATION DEVELOPMENT The development of tourist destinations is a central theme in the tourism literature and researchers approach the subject from various perspectives and disciplines. The temporal and spatial evolution of destinations, the impacts of development, government growth policies, planning imperatives, marketing issues and Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: destination development; Dubai; Middle East.

*Correspondence to: J. C. Henderson, Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University, Nanyang Avenue, Singapore 639798. E-mail: ahenderson@ntu.edu.sg

88 business strategies are amongst the many topics studied. Such analyses suggest that places, whether considered at resort or country level, are more likely to develop as tourist destinations if certain factors are present, whereas their absence can constitute barriers of assorted degrees of severity. Critical influences relate to accessibility (Prideaux, 2000), attraction and amenity standards (Gunn, 2004), awareness and positive images (Johns and Mattson, 2005) associated with promotion and marketing (Buhalis, 2000), a supportive government (Weaver and Lawton, 2002) and a...
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