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Sat 19 Apr 2014 10:39 AM

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Why tourism is a vital economic driver

Hesham Abdullah Al Qassim outlines the need to create an intelligent harmony between the real estate and tourism industries.

Why tourism is a vital economic driver

Tourism is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world and one which has not been greatly affected during the recent global economic crisis, highlighting its importance as one of the most important sectors in international trade. Many countries depend on tourism as the main contributor to their GDP, with the industry being an essential engine driving their economy.

The tourism sector can be a highly productive one increasing a country’s national income and improving its balance of payments. It can also be a source of hard currency and provide the opportunity to reduce unemployment through creating the need for thousands of jobs in the service industry.

The tourism industry includes 40 active and economically diverse sub-sectors responsible for 270 million jobs worldwide, with the sector generating 450,000 jobs in the UAE alone. The latter figure is perhaps not so surprising, with the UAE in general and Dubai in particular perennially flagged up as being top tourist destinations.

It is important to realise that a country’s tourism industry will not be able to play the role of economic and cultural driver unless it is supported by real estate development and activity. Tourism these days is dependent on property development and the exploitation of resources needed in the construction and building processes.

The concept of tourism in the 21st century has been expanded far beyond its original definition, with visitors now seeking out places to visit beyond the traditional historical and archaeological destinations. We are now witnessing an influx of holiday makers taking part in religious tourism, curative tourism, therapeutic tourism and caravan tourism. All this activity is occurring on top of what the WWF environmental record officially stated in 1985 was a huge increase in the level of eco-tourism, in addition to rural, heritage, space, sports and business tourism. Dubai’s vision and experience in the real estate industry and the fact that it supports other sectors, particularly the tourism sector, is based upon a new methodology that launches real estate projects not just for the purposes of housing and commerce, but to incorporate it as a part of the overall urban environment. This real estate industry is, in part, the arm of the emirate in creating a unique vision for an intelligent integration, based on ensuring that Dubai becomes one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Family tourism, in particular, is a prime example of a new concept that Dubai has been able to monopolise after its huge successes in that area.

Dubai’s management of the expertise of its real estate sector to serve its tourism industry has become a global reference and a model. It has not neglected its heritage projects, which form an essential part of the city’s fabric that visitors wish to see. Complementing the existing Souk Madinat Jumeirah is the new wasl district project, a recently-completed neighbourhood market area featuring a museum that honours the role of the Al Maktoum Hospital, which played such an important role in the development of the UAE’s modern healthcare system. This distinctive project will enable tourists to experience the ambience of traditional UAE culture, its rich heritage and its colourful history.

It is vital that we continue the process of harmonisation between Dubai’s real estate sector and its tourism industry in order to meet the increasing tourism demands as we move towards embracing Expo 2020. The sector is growing at a rapid rate, achieving revenues that were 37 percent of the emirate’s total income at the close of 2012. The future means exciting news for mega-projects that will increase the strength and durability of the UAE’s tourism industry.

Hesham Abdullah Al Qassim, CEO of Wasl Asset Management Group.

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