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Promoting Tourism in Pakistan: Lessons from Dubai

August 15, 2023

KARACHI: Issam Kazim, chief executive officer of one of the government organisations tasked with making it happen, claimed that Dubai’s success as a top destination is largely due to a strong relationship between the public and private sectors that succeeds in pushing the promotion of tourism.

In a recent interview with Business Recorder, Kazim said there has been a “amazing partnership” between the public and private sectors in Dubai, which has helped the emirate’s evolution from a trading hub to one of the most visited cities in the world. Kazim was responding to a question about Pakistan tourism and lessons it could learn.

According to Kazim, CEO of Dubai Corporation for Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DCTCM), “as a government department, we are driving the private sector forward, as opposed to the other way around that would be the case globally.” “What drives us is this desire to make sure we are working to become the top destination.”

The DCTCM, which is an arm of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism), was founded in December 2013 and is in charge of promoting the emirate’s goal of becoming the most visited city in the world.

According to data in the Dubai Tourism annual report for the year, it welcomed a record 16.7 million overnight guests, a 5.1% increase in volume over the previous year. This placed it fourth on the list of most visited cities in the world, behind Bangkok, London, and Paris. Pakistan was ninth among the top 10 source markets for tourists to Dubai, contributing 3% of the total number of visitors.

The following year, as the tourism industry was affected by the coronavirus epidemic, the number of visitors fell to 5.5 million, but a slow rebound has now put Dubai back in the lead.

It is now hosting the six-month Expo 2020 Dubai, a trade show that started on October 1 and will go through March 2022. Since its opening, more than seven million people have visited it. As the world economy looks to take control against the pandemic with vaccine, travel also increases at the end of the year, with Dubai already preparing for the New Year’s celebrations. The ICC T20 World Cup was recently held in the UAE, drawing a sizable influx of visitors from South Asia.

The economy of Dubai’s commerce, financial, and tourist hub decreased 10.9% last year, with the coronavirus-caused decline in tourism accounting for 56% of the entire decline, according to a research from S&P Global Ratings published in October 2021.

According to the research, tourism’s contribution to real GDP decreased from 18% in 2019 to around 13% in 2020.

Even though it is less significant in contrast, the contribution is still a long cry from the modest 5.9% contribution that tourism made to Pakistan’s GDP even in 2019.

In Kazim’s opinion, Dubai’s transition from a commerce centre to a tourism destination was aided by its opening to new markets.

We have always been based on trade. Today, we operate some of the biggest ports in the world. The CEO continued, “Same goes for our airports. In 2019, Dubai’s airport welcomed over 86 million passengers, overtaking London’s Heathrow to become the busiest airport in the world.

According to data from Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, the country’s airports collectively served almost 20 million passengers between July 2018 and June 2019.

“This demonstrates the value an airport offers. Airports and public-private partnerships play a crucial role in Dubai’s business and logistics as well as connectivity and visitor influx.

According to Kazim, Dubai’s scope has progressively grown, but the private sector has always been supportive, cooperating as the emirate transitioned from being just a trading hub to a major international commercial centre.

“The chances we may take advantage of are also created by the private sector.

In order to promote Dubai as more than just a commerce hub and to encourage enterprises to locate here, we are also building a business component to the project.

“With that, we also loosened rules and guidelines, particularly those pertaining to visas. It must be simpler for them to bring in team members from all over the world if they have a regional headquarters in Dubai.

The various visa regulations, some of which were enacted during the epidemic to facilitate travel, are aimed at various market sectors, including post-retirement, freelancers, and remote workers.

According to Kazim, the entire infrastructure is made up of “simple building blocks” that draw people in—from connectivity to ease of access.

The visit of family and friends also plays a significant influence.

Even though it was among the industries most severely affected by the epidemic and is still vulnerable to global recessions, many people think Pakistan’s tourist sector has enormous potential.

If a nation is equipped to handle the higher population, increased foot traffic benefits many industries, including aviation, retail, and transportation.

Pakistan can learn a lot from Dubai, according to Hasaan Khawar, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister of Punjab on Information & Special Initiatives, Tourism, and Parks & Horticulture Authorities.

“Investment promotes tourism, and private sector involvement helps make this happen. From investment policies to laws, Dubai’s public-private collaboration is a model to imitate, Khawar told Business Recorder.

“Emirates airline is a great resource for us as well. People believe that tourism is originally pushed before air travel. In Dubai, it was the opposite,” Khawar continued, alluding to Kazim’s earlier statement that connectivity was crucial for advancing Dubai’s tourism objectives.

Khawar also emphasised the need for Pakistan to manage tourism sustainably, despite its continued importance. “We must advertise it in a sustainable, eco-friendly way. It’s necessary to strike a balance.

The official emphasised the ease of entry through better visa policies and private sector investment when stating that Pakistan has the potential to develop religious and cultural tourism.

Read More: Pakistan’s Tourism Industry Rocked by Climate Change

Read More: Marriott Hotel Sponsors PTDC’s National Tourism Conference

Kazim added that Dubai’s goal is to be both the most visited and the most livable city, objectives that will go hand in hand as it rebounds from the pandemic.

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