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by Kent Woolridge


Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Masters of Public Administration in the Graduate School of Public Affairs at the Baruch College of the City University of New York





This paper attempts to examine Abu Dhabi’s recent tourism policy and efforts to expand middle class tourist markets from India. The research surveys whether Abu Dhabi’s tourism development strategy in relation to India is likely to succeed by using a framework to identify factors tied to positive economic outcomes associated with a tourist destination’s success. Drawing on interviews with tourism stakeholders representing government and private sectors, (national tourist authority, hotel operators, destination management companies, attractions, tour operators) the study explores the processes of collaboration and communication between stakeholders in the areas of collaborative relationships, marketing strategies and the destination’s branding and performance measurements. Based on the outcome, some of Abu Dhabi’s positive economic growth appears to be due to Indian tourism development, but it is too early to know because the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority rolled out the focused strategy in 2011.

Keywords: Indian middle-class markets, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, tourism economic development strategy, success factors



I am pleased to have this opportunity to thank the faculty members and professionals outside of the University who helped me with this research project. I am most indebted to Diane Gibson, Professor of Economics, Graduate School of Public Affairs and Andreas Grein, Professor of International Marketing, Zicklin Business School, for sharing their expertise and insight regarding economic development and marketing. Diane, thank you for helping me stay focused and organized. Andy, thank you for sharing your enthusiasm and motivating me to pursue my research topic from the very beginning. I am indebted to Lene Skou, deputy director, Weissman Center of International Business, who encouraged me to apply for the Grant for International Travel (GIT) and gave me important pointers on effective grant writing. This research would not have been possible without the GIT grant and support of Beth Miller and Romananski Jules of the Weissman Center of International Business. I would like to thank Professor Thomas Bonnett, my Capstone thesis supervisor for his inspiration and guidance and endless support particularly while compiling my research. Lastly, I would like to thank everyone in Abu Dhabi and Dubai who took time from their busy schedules to meet with me and participate in the face-to-face interviews. Without you, the research would not have been possible.



1. Table 1. UAE Stakeholder Interview Questions 2. Table 2. Elements Tied to Destination Success 3. Figure 1. Average Real GDP Growth in Selected Emerging Markets 4. Figure 2. Abu Dhabi Hotel Establishments’ Guests (UK & India) 5. Figure 3. Compounded Annual Growth Rate (%) for Hotel Guests from India & UK (20092012)







List of Table & Figures


Table of Contents




Methodology & Literature Search


Section 1 Tourism: A Successful Economic Development Strategy


Elements of a Successful Tourism Development Strategy


Section 2 Abu Dhabi


Efforts to Expand Markets from India


Recent Developments






Appendix A______________________________________________________________________38 Appendix B______________________________________________________________________39 Appendix C______________________________________________________________________40


Introduction This paper explores how tourism can be a successful economic strategy and describes the features of tourism strategies that have been linked to positive economic development outcomes. I use Abu Dhabi as a case study and evaluate its efforts to expand middle class tourist markets with respect to India by observing whether its tourism development strategy incorporates the characteristics associated with successful economic development. I chose this topic because I have a strong interests and international experience in tourism planning. Having lived, studied, and worked in Paris and Tokyo and travelled extensively, I was intent on conducting a research project for my Capstone thesis that would give me a chance to gain firsthand experience in tourism development in a part of the world that was experiencing a lot of change and building a future. Since I was fascinated by the rapid economic growth and the transformation occurring in tourism in the Arabian Gulf, I chose Abu Dhabi. I saw this as an opportunity and decided to do my thesis on a policy topic related to elements of Abu Dhabi’s tourism economic development strategy. I decided to focus my research on evaluating the effectiveness of Abu Dhabi’s tourism policy relating to India more closely as a result of the global economic crisis. It was after the decline in inbound European tourist markets to the region during the economic downturn that Abu Dhabi’s tourism strategy appeared to shift from mainly attracting up-market tourists and business travelers to broadening their tourism offering to attract more emerging tourist markets in the neighboring countries. Once Abu Dhabi shifted its focus, I wanted to do research on the topic and find out whether this was likely to be a successful strategy.


Methodology & Literature Search Before defining my research problem, I spent time investigating different Middle East business journals and websites dedicated to tourism and hospitality such as Arabian Middle East Information, Arabian Business, Arabian Travel News Update, Hotelier Middle East, Arabian Supply Chain, etc. I read special tourism reports and reviews published by commercial and government professional enterprises such as Deloitte - United Arab Emirates, Insight Management Consultancy, the Government of Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy, the Government of Dubai, as well as featured reports in trade journals on tourism and travel development in the UAE. After a broad review, I narrowed my topic from “tourism expansion in Abu Dhabi” to “determining if middle class leisure tourists markets were potential markets for Abu Dhabi.” Soon after the global economic crisis hit in 2009, “Abu Dhabi’s European source markets proved to be volatile while nearby markets in the Arabian Gulf region and India remained less affected” (Davids 2011). I questioned how Abu Dhabi could sustain growth for the future without a broader market focus since it branded itself as a “high-end destination” and not a commoditized destination for mass tourism (“Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030”). I wanted to know if middle class Indians were a potential market for Abu Dhabi so I reviewed sources on travel and tourism industry trends on India using the following databases - Passport: Euromonitor Internationalmarket research reports that cover product markets in 53 countries, World Travel Tourism Council (WTTC), Centre for Aviation (CAPA), Abu Dhabi Airport Monthly Traffic Reports, (ADAC) etc., and discovered the growing middle class in India was spending more on travel and leisure and short distance travel while low-cost airfares stimulated demand for high-profile destinations 2

like the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (Davids 2011). During the global economic crisis, Abu Dhabi’s tourism strategy began shifting away from attracting primarily high-end tourists to incorporating more regional markets (Euromonitor International 16). In September 2011, the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) publicly announced its intention to expand inbound tourism from India. This decision prompted me to change the focus of my research from developing a case for Abu Dhabi’s expansion of middle-class Indian tourism to an evaluation of the likely effectiveness of TCA Abu Dhabi’s tourism strategy with respect to India. In my study, I look at how tourism can be a successful economic strategy and investigate features of tourism strategies that have been linked to positive economic development outcomes. Then I look at Abu Dhabi’s tourism development strategy to see if it contains elements linked to success. I briefly discuss some recent developments regarding efforts to expand tourist markets from India to Abu Dhabi that occur after my data collection in October 2012. The literature review covers the economic impact of tourism and essential “elements” leading to successful economic development. There is extensive literature on the economic impact of tourism and the elements leading to success and my research involves an examination of this literature and how it relates to destination development. I reference sources from Sage Journals/ Social Sciences & Humanities (Marketing & Hospitality) database such as Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, Journal of Travel Research, Journal of Vacation Marketing, Local Economy, Tourism and Hospitality Research widely in my study. I decided it was a good idea to meet with principals in the tourism industry in the UAE to get a better understanding of what was going on with respect to efforts aimed at expanding leisure tourism to Abu Dhabi from India. The final stage of my research involved a visit to 3

Abu Dhabi to address my research questions through a series of face-to-face interviews with government officials and professionals in local tourism sectors representing Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), Tourism Development Investment Company (TDIC), Al Futtaim Travel, Arabian Adventures, Lama Tours, Rotana Hotels and Yas Waterworld (Appendix A). Interviewing key informants provided me valuable insight about certain stakeholder’s marketing efforts to expand tourism from India to Abu Dhabi and future developments. The questions relate to current tourism expansion with an emphasis on middle-income leisure tourism from India to Abu Dhabi. Typical interview questions explored the processes of collaboration and communication between stakeholders pertaining to collaborative relationships, marketing strategies, destinations branding and performance measurements (see Table 1).


Table 1.

UAE Stakeholder Interview Questions Collaborative Relationships How closely do you work with the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority in designing tour products to attract middle-income Indian travelers? In what ways does the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority support its stakeholders?

Marketing Strategies Is the Indian market important to your business and if so, what are you doing to grow this market? What types of strategies are used to identify potential markets in India?

Destination Branding Do you think strategies to attract middle-income tourist conflict with Abu Dhabi’s aim of being an up-market world-class destination of choice? Are there attractions that target middle-income tourist planned for the future?

Performance Measurements What type of benchmarks does Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority use to measure the success of brand awareness campaigns? Does your organization have anything formal in place to measure performance?

Source: Sample interview questions for tourism sector representatives in Abu Dhabi & Dubai, UAE October 2012 by Kent Woolridge


Tourism as a Successful Economic Development Strategy Governments have long used tourism as a strategy to achieve better economic performance (Lionetti et al. 2012) and the benefits have led many nations, states and communities to develop tourism strategies that encourage economic expansion (Fleming et al. 1990). To ensure that tourism gets appropriate recognition in government policy, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) members’-global business leaders' of the world’s foremost travel and tourism organizations - work hard to persuade government administrations worldwide of the advantages and economic benefits associated with the tourism industry (Crouch 1996). Since the economic impact of tourism can spread benefits throughout a whole economy, many nation-states regard it as a sustainable source of growth (Reime et al. 1979). Tourism development is considered a viable economic alternative to traditional industries (manufacturing, agriculture, etc.) and in some destinations a good tourism development strategy can be an economic savior (Fleming et al. 1990). In fact, a boost in a country’s visitors impacts growth a number of ways, i.e. through increases in gross domestic product (GDP), creating more jobs, foreign exchange, etc.(Assadzadeh et al. 2012). In the mid 70’s, the city of London adopted an economic approach to develop tourism after benefiting from rising visitor numbers (Duncan 2009). Tourism had long been a part of London’s economy, but the city’s administrators had seldom invested in promoting tourism as an economic development strategy. Once the city decided to spend on tourism campaigns, the rise in visitor spending helped develop London’s economy. In 2008, tourism accounted for some 7 percent of London’s GDP (Ibid.p.418). The contribution of tourism to GDP mainly reflects the economic activity generated by sectors such as hotels, travel agents, airlines and other passenger transportation 6

services including the activities directly supported by tourists ("World Tourism Organization UNWTO Press Release" 2012). Another case illustrating the successful impact of tourism involves positive economic growth in Mexico. In the late 60’s, Mexico established a National Fund of Tourism Development and obtained loans from the World Bank to construct hotels and other tourist facilities and infrastructure to enhance tourism (Wilson 2008). The strategy stimulated different types of jobs in construction, hospitality, transportation, food and beverage, events, recreations, etc. throughout Mexico (Ibid. p.39). Tourism also generates positive foreign exchange whereby tourists change their currencies into local currency giving the host country more foreign currency to spend at home and stimulate more economic development (Ibid.). While most large-scale tourism development strategies are likely to be publicly financed partially or entirely by local and nation-states, in many instances private sector stakeholders have also led successful tourism expansion schemes. Take for example what Walt Disney did for the state of Florida in North America. The entertainment corporation transformed areas in Orange and Osceola counties in Florida into a successful tourist destination known as Walt Disney World. As one of the world’s most visited attractions, today Walt Disney World generates US$18.2 billion annually and responsible for 1 of every 50 jobs in the state while accounting for 2.5 percent of Florida’s gross domestic product. (Garcia 2011) In effect, we see how tourism development strategies can contribute to higher GDP levels when planned and developed properly. The next section of my paper examines some elements associated with positive economic outcomes that are linked to a destination’s success (see Table 2.). Research suggests that effective tourism forecasting; good cooperation between stakeholders; balanced attractions that 7

serve visitors and residents; public financed tourism investment; and effective destination branding are all contributors to economic growth and considered essential for a destination to succeed. Table 2. Elements Tied to Destination Success

Essential Element Tied to Success

Effective Forecasting Good Cooperation between Stakeholders Balance Attractions to Serve Visitor and Residents Public Investment Effective Branding

Sources and Notes: The author identifies these five elements as contributors to success based on literature cited in the study. (Akehurst et al. 1994, Reime et al 1979, Sartori et al. 2012, Uysal et al. 1985, Van Doren 1981, Wang 2008)


Elements of a Successful Tourism Development Strategy What does a good tourism development strategy look like? Given that tourism can be a major source of revenue and employment for destinations, effective forecasting is necessary to achieve a successful development strategy. The tourism industry is very competitive and because a destination’s allure can changes in response to things like inflation, fuel prices, public funding, (Van Doren 1981) terrorism, etc., destination planners have to make sound strategic and operational decisions to succeed (Ibid., p.9). Often, these decisions depend on good forecasting and planning. For example hotels, attractions, and transportation modes all need to know forecasts in order to service the demand; the costs associated with each type of demand; and the number of visitors (Catantone et al. 1987). Expenditures can be great when a destination fails to forecast properly and accuracy is especially important since financial commitments on tourism infrastructure and transportation are made years in advance (Ibid. p.27). “Furthermore, if demand forecasts are overly hopeful, tourism planners may end up paying higher promotional costs with meager results “(Ibid. p.28). When forecasts are overstated, destinations tend to develop excess capacity resulting in over estimations of demand and poor timing of site development (Ibid.). Likewise, if forecasts are understated, a destination will plan for less capacity. “Critical operational decisions such as the number of temporary employees to hire, rooms to blocks, number of shuttle buses and hours of operation per day, depend strongly on proper forecasting”(Ibid., p.29). These decisions and more are based on expected demand and demonstrate how important forecasting is for predicting the economic impact of a tourist destination’s development strategy. The elements of good forecasts for a destination to consider include consistent visitor arrivals numbers; visitor nights; visitor expenditures; average length of 9

stay per visitor; average spend per day per visitor; and visitor purpose of visit. Usually, if these variables are not properly measured, it is difficult for a destination to generate income and employment to ensure tourists are satisfied because without effective forecasting, reliable predictions for tourism activity to support planning and investment is hard to attain (Gunn 1994).

Cooperation between stakeholders is another important element that contributes to a successful economic development strategy. A destination’s ability to foster relationships amongst stakeholders is extremely important for the decision making process and overall success. “There is a strong need for local government authorities and private sector stakeholders to work together in the tourism industry on making choices regarding development and destination marketing (Wang 2008).” Often relationship building amongst destination stakeholders is the consequence of compromises made between participants working together towards the same goal. Or cooperation results from conflicts that arise between private stakeholders and government authorities. Whatever the setting is, efforts to manage these relationships must be coordinated. Since the tourism industry is fragmented in nature, the different sectors that make up the industry have their own distinct needs and demands that impact the economic landscape of the destination (Ibid. p.152).

For some jurisdictions, the major marketing tasks of the destination are usually conducted by the local government tourism entity that serves as the collective marketing agent in marketing the destination to tourists. The way government and private sector stakeholders join forces vis-àvis marketing arrangements influences a destination’s competitiveness and overall rate of


growth, particularly when visitor markets are from overseas (Prideaux et al. 2003). One of the most effective ways these entities join forces is by creating partnerships through alliances.

“Since the marketing function aims to increase the volume of visitors to a destination, interdependency is encouraged among public and private stakeholders though the creation of local alliances (Palmer et al. 1995).” Cooperation through destination marketing can take several forms such as membership-based organizations like local or national government-funded promotional organizations and bodies formed through mix of private and public sector funding (Baker et al. 2008). Collaborative efforts by government and private stakeholders concerning the production and promotion for tourism products greatly influence a destination’s success (Prideaux et al. 2003). Close cooperation between all local suppliers and partnerships between the public and private sector is tied to a destination’s ability to offer quality products (Ibid.). Since airlines, hotels, destination management organizations, restaurants, attractions, etc., make up tourism products, maintaining quality can be a challenge for an industry that encompasses a wide variety of goods and services. The marketing of these products involve actions in the form of developing and pricing them correctly, promoting them effectively and distributing them to visitors and evaluating the results (Seaton and Bennett 4-12). Cooperation between stakeholders governs the balance and extent to which all participants contribute to the destination. Hence, a destination’s competitiveness is equally contingent on the cooperation between all public and private sector stakeholders. Effective tourism development is not only dependent on consumers and producers of tourism products, but the attitudes of residents living in a destination and how they perceive development are important (Reime et al. 1979) which is why a successful tourism strategy is one 11

in which both residents and visitors benefit from tourist attractions (Ibid., p. 68).Tourist attractions are defined as named events, sites and areas in a tourist destination (Pearce 1991). When residents in a destination support tourism development they benefit from the creation of jobs and overall economic growth generated from tourists revenues. Visitors generally benefit from a satisfying experience when host societies do not regard their behavior and demands as hostile or overbearing. Without actual tourist attractions, tourism could not exist in a destination. “When planning attractions, development planners should not impose the wishes of a variety of strangers on a destination, but instead the indigenous qualities of the region, whether social or natural, should be taken into consideration when satisfying the needs of visitors” (Reime et al. 1979). By taking this into consideration leads to a better matching of qualities that fit the (consumer) market segment profile with the (producer) host society (Ibid., p. 68). Furthermore, attractions should maximize benefits to host communities and culture/heritage to be sustainable for the future (Rieder 2012). Undoubtedly, tourist attractions can bring great advantages to a destination and contribute to direct employments and economic growth but to better understand residents’ opinions towards tourism development, research should be administered in advance (Reime et al. 1979). Since tourist attractions affect residents’ quality of life, recognizing how residents perceive the costs and benefits of tourism are important for planners (Teye et al. 2002). “While attractions bring economic benefits such as additional income and employment, the social impacts like intrusion of daily life, loss of privacy and sense of crowding have a negative impact on the local way of living” (Ibid). Therefore, residents’ attitudes must be considered or else the consequences can be difficult in the long run (Reime et al. 1979). 12

Public investment is another important factor contributing to successful tourism strategies. In a tourism context, public investment refers to the development or upgrading of a destination’s products and services for visitors that includes investment in public and private land, buildings, infrastructure, products, services and experiences. Public tourism investment offers huge benefits such as the enhancement of the destination’s overall appeal; development of partnerships and co-investments with stakeholders; investments in local infrastructures that serve tourism and non-tourism needs; and new ways to increase capacity to better service tourists ("Government Tourism Policy" 2012). High-level government commitment plays an important role in planning and creating cooperation among stakeholders in the tourism industry that can lead to a more attractive and competitive destination (Van Doren 1981). Effective public tourism investment encourages additional new business creation in sectors like retail, transportation and entertainment. This leads to local expansion and more outlets for visitors to spend money on a variety of goods and services. When destinations invest in the right area it can stimulate demand and attract more tourists who would not have visited otherwise. Public investment has the potential to create more jobs relative to the level of investment. Since many tourism related sectors are labor intensives, like hospitality and food service, investment in tourism has the potential to generate a relatively high number of jobs proportionate to the investment (Ibid. p.13). It also contributes to an important number of jobs that are created indirectly such as in retail and other sectors. Investing in tourism can broaden a destinations economic base while permitting the destination to become more resourceful and less dependent on government support (Ibid). Public Investment can also enhance community development by attracting activities and new events to a destination resulting in more visitations 13

and making it more attractive for people to live there. Artistic and cultural events can also strengthen community relations and contribute to tourism spending (Ibid). Further, with more public financing, destinations are able to invigorate their tourism product through government initiatives like industry worker training programs, sponsorship of destination awareness campaigns, collaborative initiatives with educational institutions, etc., (Akehurst et al. 1994). Since public investment is essential to improve the sustainability of a destination’s products and services, sometimes government support is provided directly or through grants and subsidized loans to tourist related businesses (Ibid., p. 14). Financing tourism infrastructure, transportation and attractions is also necessary especially in new destinations where tourism is in the development and planning stages (Ibid.). Some nation-states and local governments provide financial incentives in the form of programs and assistance to encourage upgrading and modernization of different sectors within the tourism industry. For example in the U.S. many state and local governments finance constructions or renovation projects of new convention centers as a part of tourism economic development strategy to attract more events and business tourism (Saunders 2005). Findings from a study on national European tourism policy revealed success is likely to occur when public investment is directly or indirectly linked to a clear government tourism development strategy and the outlay is concentrated on specific key areas such as transport, environment and culture (Akehurst et al. 1994). Lastly, certain destination branding experts believe the reason tourists are persuaded to visit one destination over another is because visitors have curiosity for the place and its culture and heritage (Morgan et al. 2003). A destination’s brand is a different type of product since it is a combination of many different goods and services (hospitality, attractions, arts, entertainment, 14

culture, heritage, natural environments, etc.) that destination marketers (government tourists boards and agencies; chambers of commerce; travel trade associations) have limited control over (Ibid. p287). For branding to be effective, tourism boards and NTO’s should work together with stakeholders to increase awareness of the destination; create more interest in, and visitations to the location; and educate the potential visitors of things to do (Pike 2009). Government tourism authorities usually provide financial and human capital and take on the role of coordinating the resources invested in the development of the destination’s brand. Since brand building is difficult and requires long-term efforts reinforced by key stakeholders, (Prideaux et al. 2003) an effective branding process occurs once the tourism authority mobilizes and builds cooperation and commitment among stakeholders (Sartori et al. 2012).Some experts suggest that tourism boards provide financial incentives and advertising discounts for stakeholders to get them on board (Ibid.). Tourism boards are also encouraged to develop external communication policies with stakeholders that involve them in road shows and other initiatives (Ibid.). This type of participative approach makes it easier for tourism boards to manage stakeholders with an emphasis on developing alliances (Pike 2009). By adopting an inclusive and participative approach to the branding process can increases stakeholders’ willingness to share the brand mission (Sartori et al. 2012).


Abu Dhabi As part of Abu Dhabi’s long term strategic plan (“Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030”) the government aims to diversify its economy by investing heavily into export-oriented sectors as a way to build a competitive advantage. Tourism is expected to provide a large percentage of the growth as Abu Dhabi aspires to become a world-class tourist destination.1In 2004, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) - currently known as Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority’s (TCA Abu Dhabi), was established with the mission to raise awareness, develop the Abu Dhabi tourism brand, and market and promote the destination internationally. Thereafter, the Tourism Development Investment Company (TDIC), the real estate entity, wholly owned by TCA Abu Dhabi, was created to expand diverse assets that contribute to Abu Dhabi’s growth in order to become a high-end leading world-class tourist destination. As the master developer of Abu Dhabi, TDIC has the task of building a destination that will create a sustainable future for the nation and its citizens. With major tourist developments such as the Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Grand Prix Circuit, Yas Waterworld, and soon to be online attractions like the Sheikh Zayed National Museum and Louvre and Guggenheim Museums and a performing arts center and maritime museum, the emirate capital is aiming to achieve a more balanced business/leisure tourism split by becoming more of a leisure destination. Tourism makes up an ever-increasing percentage of Abu Dhabi’s GDP with the sector contributing 3.8 percent to GDP growth in 2011. ("Notes on Abu Dhabi's GDP”). Today, with overseas offices in major cities, Abu Dhabi attracts diverse business 1

There is no operating definition of “world-class tourist destination” but if one were to look at what some worldclass cities (i.e. Hong Kong, London, Moscow, New York, Paris,) have in common it is an array of quality cultural products and granted these cities have been around for hundreds of years their cultural institutions have developed organically over centuries.


and leisure tourism segments from around the world. With the rise of leisure consumption in emerging global economies, the region has been able to leverage markets in Brazil, China, India, Russia, South Korea and South Africa (Singh 2012). Figure 1. Average Real GDP Growth in Selected Emerging Markets 2011-2014f(%) 10.0% 7.4%



6.0% 4.0%





South Africa

South Korea


Market Brazil China India Russia

0.0% Brazil




Sources: Data courtesy of W. Horsley, Al-Futtaim Travel/trade sources/ (Appendix B)

Forecasts for average real GDP growth indicates India and China’s middle class will continue to outpace other emerging economies through 2014 (see Figure 1.). It is estimated that by 2015, several hundred million people will have the means to travel from both countries. This could also explain why TCA Abu Dhabi opened overseas office in China and India. Indian outbound tourism to the UAE is flourishing partly due to its close proximity and strong ties (TCA Abu Dhabi 2011). As leisure consumption expands with Indian middle class markets, short distance and low cost airfares will continue to stimulate demand for visiting the UAE (Euromonitor). In recent years, India has become a key source market for Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector.


Abu2. Dhabi Guest (UK & India) Figure AbuHotels Dhabi Establishments' Hotels Establishments' Guests (UK & India) 139,319 139,319

150,000 150,000 120,000 120,000 90,000 90,000 60,000 60,000

117,836 117,836 96,709 96,709

140,393 140,393 138,768 138,768


82,991 82,991

UK India

61,241 61,241

30,000 30,000 00 2009 2009


2011 2011


UK India


Source: Data courtesy of L. Delcomminette, Arabian Adventures/TCA Abu Dhabi / (Appendix C)

Today it ranks second to the UK (top) in overseas markets for hotel guests (see Figure 2.). Abu Dhabi tourism officials anticipate a rise in Indian traffic in the near future, as India’s developing aviation sector drives expansion (Broomhall).

Figure 3. Compounded Annual Growth Rates (%) for Hotel Guests from India & UK (2009-2012) Abu Dhabi Hotel Establishments' Guests from India 150,000

Abu Dhabi Hotel Establishments' Guests from the UK +13.2% 150,000







61,241 50,000



0 2009




Source: Data courtesy of L. Delcomminette, Arabian Adventures/ TCA Abu Dhabi/trade sources

In connection with growth in Indian source markets, the sector registered a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 31.3% from 2009 -2012 compared to the UK’s 13.2% for the same period (see Figure 3.). Key contributors to India’s high growth were the expansion of the middle 18

class and rising disposable incomes backed by strong economic development at home (Passport GMID). These factors contributed to international outbound travel demand in India. In particularly, short haul travel to the UAE proved less affected by the global economic crisis as household expenditure demand increased for leisure and recreation. Further, rising promotional activities and increasing support from TCA Abu Dhabi and flights to the UAE from India contribute to the influx of Indian travelers. If expansion continues in this direction, we can expect India to become Abu Dhabi’s largest overseas source market for hotel guest. Nonetheless, the growth figures in the graph account only for Indian visitors who stay in hotel establishments. While the number of Indians visiting Abu Dhabi is believed to be higher (Delcomminette 2012) (Horsley 2012) (Singh 2012) since data excludes those visiting friends and relatives (VFR) who stay with residents.


Abu Dhabi’s Efforts to Expand Markets from India This section of my paper examines Abu Dhabi’s efforts to expand its middle-class tourist markets with respect to India and evaluates whether its development strategy is likely to be successful looking at the factors described in the “Elements of a Successful Tourism Development Strategy” section. Each element will be discussed separately and information gathered from interviews will be presented in tables and the source of information will be noted. Other information gained during my research relevant to these elements will be presented in the text.

Forecasting / Planning Based on my interviews with stakeholders, I am unable to tell if the tourism forecasting Abu Dhabi does with respect to Indian middle class markets matches what is effective. There is some forecasting underway and stakeholders are clearly trying to make estimates. For example, Yas Waterworld projects that Indian visitors and UAE Indian residents will have a huge impact on the Park’s attendance and revenue streams (Oswald 2012). However, there is not enough information to weigh in on to know whether stakeholders are doing an effective job on forecasting. I cannot add to this since I was not able to get much insight into what type of forecasting is currently underway.



Information from interviews about what Abu Dhabi does with respect to cooperation between public and private stakeholders regarding middle class Indian tourism development:

TCA Abu Dhabi provides ongoing marketing and promotional support to its leisure/entertainment stakeholders Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld by building awareness throughout India for both attractions (Oswald 2012).

Stakeholders benefit greatly from the government’s strong support and long-term vision (Oswald 2012).

TCA Abu Dhabi supports stakeholders in developing product awareness in India through variety of initiatives such as road shows, trade show and exhibitions (Klein & Varfis 2012) (Singh 2012) (Delcomminette 2012) (Horsley 2012) (Al Harethi 2012).

Source: Al Harethi, S. (Brand Support Services, ADTCA) Delcomminette, L. (V.P., Arabian Adventures) Horsley, W. (GM, Al Futtaim Travel) Klein, M. (Area VP, Rotana) Oswald, M. (Park Manager, Yas Waterworld), Singh, K, (Managing Director, Lama Tours) Varfis, V. (Corporate VP, Rotana) interviewed by Kent Woolridge

Based on my findings, TCA Abu Dhabi and stakeholders are working together on shared decision making to expand visitors from India’s middle class. Partnering with Lama Tours to direct a road show throughout India demonstrates how TCA Abu Dhabi’s teams up with stakeholders on joint projects to develop markets in India. Overall, the government’s relationships with stakeholders through a number of initiatives and partnerships are tied to Abu Dhabi’s ability to market the destination well and offer quality tourism products. In addition, the


Etihad Airways and TCA Abu Dhabi partnership creates opportunities for travel companies and wholesalers in India to expand business to Abu Dhabi and provides greater marketing support for destination management companies. Cooperation between TCA Abu Dhabi and stakeholders exist which suggests they are on a good path.

Balanced Attractions

Information from interviews about what Abu Dhabi does with respect to balanced attractions for visitors and residents regarding middle class Indian tourism development:

Farah Leisure Management plans its theme parks (Ferrari World Abu Dhabi & Yas Waterworld) with consideration to the needs of middle & lower income local residents (Oswald 2012).

Other likely attractions that take into consideration the needs of middle income tourists and residents include the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the new museum projects scheduled to open in the Cultural District on Saadiyat Island (Al Kendi & Wakim 2012).

Source: Interview with Al Kendi, N. (Chief Development Officer, TDIC) Oswald, M. (Park Manager, Yas Waterworld), Wakim, C. (Senior Development Mgr., TDIC) by K. Woolridge, UAE October 2012.

It is difficult to know whether the planning for these attractions was done with any regard to middle class Indian tourism development to Abu Dhabi. However, based on my interviews I think the balance between attractions in Abu Dhabi serve both middle income residents and visitors well as based on my interviews, it appears that development planners have been careful in considering the host communities needs and customs. However, as tourism expands to the region, it is imperative to continue to preserve and respect the integrity of the local 22

culture/heritage and its religious significance, especially consideration for the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. In my opinion, Abu Dhabi should host cultural/ arts events and festivals that appeal to Indian cultural tourists to draw more leisure traffic to the emirate capital. Cultural tourism has been identified as a sector that represents enormous growth opportunities for Abu Dhabi’s future. The planned “Cultural District” on Saadiyat Island will be home to three mega-museum projects (Sheikh Zayed National Museum, flagship Guggenheim Museum and Louvre Museum); a performing arts center and maritime museum; an international media zone with production studios and news outlets; New York University and other established university outpost campuses. Since Abu Dhabi’s cultural district is new opposed to being built on existing arts and related commercial activity, tourism planners for the District may consider a wide-range of ideas for cultural programming that connect easily to Abu Dhabi’s leisure and cultural tourism development scheme. Particularly now since the overseas office in New Delhi offers TCA Abu Dhabi more opportunities to forge relationships and collaborate with cultural/arts organizations all over India. For example, developing ties with an agency like the Indian Council for Cultural Relations2 (ICCR) could be instrumental in hosting major attractions/events in Abu Dhabi. Cultural/ arts events have the potential to benefit both outside Indian visitors and UAE residents. Today nearly 1.75 million Indian nationals reside in the UAE making Indians the single largest expatriate community in the UAE, (“UAE Information Population”) thirty percent of the UAE


ICCR supports and organizes cultural festivals, both in India and overseas and sponsors performers in dance, music, photography, theatre and the visual arts. It promotes cultural exchanges between India and partner countries and sponsors exhibitions of India’s contemporary and traditional art in major events worldwide.


population, with a majority coming from the South Indian state of Kerala (“Community Welfare Portal”). Indian UAE residents and visitors represent an enormous opportunity for Abu Dhabi’s cultural tourism sector from an audience development standpoint. By forging partnerships with cultural/arts related agencies could lead to more leisure traffic to Abu Dhabi from India. Moreover, the agencies in India can act as destination management companies to promote Indian and other cultural events in Abu Dhabi. On top of being an economic driver, using the cultural agency approach to develop attractions and cultural tourism could strengthen ties in local Indian communities in the UAE.

Public Investment The government plans to invest tens of billions of dollars into the tourism sector to help achieve Economic Vision 2030 and build a competitive advantage for Abu Dhabi to become one of the world’s most attractive destinations (“Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030”). Additional tourism related public investment includes an initiative tied to the environment and the sustainability of Abu Dhabi’s rare natural treasures (sea & desert) as part of a program called Estidama3 (Al Kendi & Wakim 2012). Other areas of investment include social and human resource development initiatives in tourism such as manpower development programs, Emiratisation, protecting and promoting culture and heritage, research in collaboration with local


Estidama is the localized definition of sustainability that recognizes the unique culture, climate and economic needs of the region. More than just a sustainability program, Estidama is also the symbol of an inspired vision for governance and community development. (“Estidama”)


and international institutions, improvement of tourism industry standards, etc. (ADTA Sustainability Report 2009" 34-44). However, for purposes of evaluating Abu Dhabi’s strategy, I focus on short-term government marketing investments to build traffic from India to Abu Dhabi. The following data were gathered from various reports cited in the table below.

Reports on what Abu Dhabi does with respect to short-term marketing investments to build middle class traffic from India:

Abu Dhabi government supports tourism industry by investing heavily in the national airlines Etihad Airways (“Etihad Airways”). Government investment in Abu Dhabi International Airport allows for an increase in capacity (“Airport –Technology”). With an overseas office in New Delhi, TCA Abu Dhabi has the ability develop stronger relationships with its local partners and market more effectively in India (“Breaking Travel News”). Sources: (Etihad Airways), ("Airport-Technology") & (“Breaking Travel News”)

Based on these initiatives, the short-term investment for Indian tourism development to Abu Dhabi looks promising. For instance, financing the national airlines and airport is a good example of how government leadership in Abu Dhabi works closely with stakeholders in planning and developing new markets to more competitive destinations. Moreover, government investment in an overseas office in New Delhi demonstrates that Abu Dhabi is committed to developing this important target market.


Effective Branding

Information from interviews on what Abu Dhabi does regarding tourism branding with respect to Indian tourism development:

Etihad is rapidly expanding in India and the partnership affords TCA Abu Dhabi the ability to promote the brand jointly with the national airline. (Al Harethi 2012)

The Rotana hotel group’s sales office in India builds awareness for the Abu Dhabi and Rotana brands jointly and future management agreements established in India will build more awareness of the destination. (Klein & Varfis 2012)

Regional DMCs collaborate with TCA Abu Dhabi in building brand awareness through participation on road shows and exhibitions in India and advertising in Indian newspapers/magazines and online media outlets. (Delcomminette 2012) (Horsley 2012) (Singh 2012) Sources: Al Harethi, S. (Brand Support Services, ADTCA) Delcomminette, L. (V.P., Arabian Adventures) Horsley, W. (GM, Al Futtaim Travel) Klein, M. (Area VP, Rotana), Singh, K. (Managing Director, Lama Tours) Varfis, V. (Corporate VP, Rotana) interviewed by Kent Woolridge, UAE 10 21, 2012

I think the broad branding efforts for Indian tourism development are effective because TCA Abu Dhabi works closely with its partners and stakeholders to build awareness and create interest in Abu Dhabi and the previous literature describes what they are doing as valuable. Especially with an overseas presence in New Delhi, TCA Abu Dhabi can promote a wider range of tourism products that appeal to Indian market segments (ITR Staff). Moreover, the New Delhi office will bolster the Abu Dhabi brand in India by having closer links to Indian travel agents and operators and the ability to join more local trade shows and engage with the media directly. 26

Abu Dhabi also benefits from the TCA Abu Dhabi-Etihad Airways partnership, as the airline continues to build awareness by increasing connectivity to key cities all over India with the emirate capital. At the end of 2012, Etihad operated 59 flights to India per week from Abu Dhabi linked to Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kozhikode, Mumbai, New Delhi and Thiruvananthapuram (“Emirates 24/7�). TCA Abu Dhabi utilizes road shows to build awareness in India as well. In Jan 2013, TCA Abu Dhabi and its trade partner Lama Tours led events across five cities in India to educate potential visitors (ITR Staff). Similarly, initiatives that place importance on the promotion of Abu Dhabi’s culture and heritage contribute to branding. Key programs such as the Ambassadors and Cultural Guide Programs are mechanisms that have been put in place to work closely with local communities as ways to ensure a true Emirati experience to all visitors. (Al Harethi 2012). Nonetheless, in my opinion, the broad branding for overall tourism lacks narrow effectiveness with respect to Abu Dhabi as a destination with middle-income tourist options. While interviewing some stakeholders, there appeared to be some ambivalence branding Abu Dhabi as a middle-income destination and this uncertainty causes some mix-up as to whether Abu Dhabi wants to be identified as middle-income destination in the long run. At this early stage in my view the branding of Abu Dhabi as a middle market tourist destination comes across a little tenuous perhaps for fear of diluting its high-end appeal. A possible solution for TCA Abu Dhabi to consider would be to establish an industry development committee (IDC) dedicated to increasing their customer base by expanding options for middle-income leisure tourist markets. The committee could help the destination determine how it wants to position Brand Abu Dhabi to attract more middle-income markets. 27

Representatives from transportation companies, hotels, attractions, destination management companies, tour operators, travel agents, event organizers and retail outlets would work together on identifying possible applications to draw mid-market segments to the destination. It is certain that Abu Dhabi aim is to cater to the growing number of high-end tourists and visitors (Economic Vision 2030 Abu Dhabi), but if the destination goal is to attract 7.9 million tourists per year by 2030, ( “broadening its appeal to bring more leisure midmarket tourism to the destination is necessary to grow repeatedly every year (Kyriakidis 2009).� I am not suggesting that Abu Dhabi down market or dilute its brand to attract budget holidaymakers rather the emphasis is on strategies that appeal to leisure markets at a lower price point to create a sustainable tourism destination. Perhaps this can be accomplished through developing a broader selection of mid-range packages for short haul inbound and domestic leisure segments looking for value. Further, since leisure markets are important segments for Abu Dhabi and Dubai (Singh 2012) the Committee could work on identifying combinations of offerings to attract more leisure visitors. Likewise, they would collaborate with TCA Abu Dhabi on generating interim benchmarks to measure performance, using 2012 as the baseline for the growth in leisure mid-market segments. A monthly forum can be used as a channel to communicate these benchmarks with other IDC stakeholders to discuss and exchange information.


Recent Developments In the time frame after my data collection, following are some important development that took place. Etihad Airways launched an additional flight to India between Abu Dhabi and Ahmedabad, adding up to nine destinations with a total of 59 flights to India per week. Etihad is expanding its presence in India by connecting strategically to key cities throughout the country (“Emirates 24/7”). The growth enhances the Etihad /TCA Abu Dhabi partnership and opens up access to promote the Abu Dhabi brand in the Gujarat state in western India. Further, the expansion allows DMCs and Abu Dhabi stakeholders’ to market a wider range of tourism products to different tourist sectors in the region. At the beginning of January 2013, TCA Abu Dhabi opened an overseas office in New Delhi headed by travel industry professional Bejan Dinshaw ("Breaking Travel News"). The new office will give TCA Abu Dhabi the ability to work more efficiently in the Indian marketplace with promotion and distribution channels all over the country. Immediately after the office opening, TCA Abu Dhabi along with its trade partner Lama Tours led a road show across five cities including New Delhi, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai and Mumbai. The delegation consisted of representatives from Abu Dhabi’s attractions, airline and hotel sectors (ITR Staff). This is another indication of how well TCA Abu Dhabi’s ongoing collaboration with its UAE stakeholders to improve product awareness throughout India in growing leisure sectors and weddings and Mice segments. At the end of January, 2013 Abu Dhabi’s highly anticipated Yas Waterworld opened with a big success. With an estimated number of the Park’s attendees expected from India, TCA Abu Dhabi New Delhi office will provide exposure in key markets.


Summary The findings in my paper show that Abu Dhabi’s efforts to expand middle class tourist markets from India do incorporate elements associated with successful tourism development. For instance, effective forecasting is categorized as one of the key elements necessary for a destination to achieve a successful tourism development strategy. Abu Dhabi is clearly forecasting but based on my interviews with stakeholders, I do not have enough information to tell if the estimating Abu Dhabi does with respect to Indian middle class markets ties in with what the literature considers effective. Although forecasting is underway, I am unable to weigh in on how effective it is. Nonetheless, my findings show that cooperation between public and private stakeholders with respect to India is working for the reasons that follow: 

TCA Abu Dhabi joined marketing efforts with stakeholders (national airline, leisure attractions, hotel operators and destination management companies) to influence Abu Dhabi’s overall competitiveness and growth in India.

TCA Abu Dhabi’s strong support and motivation to develop closer relationships with private stakeholders through initiatives supporting tourism.

Overall, TCA Abu Dhabi and private sector stakeholders work together on making choices regarding development and destination marketing. Therefore I think they are doing a good job, since the previous literature deems it important and says it is what matters. With regard to the balance between attractions, based on my interviews, I think it is sufficient as some attractions serve both middle income residents and visitors well and development planners were careful in considering the host communities needs and customs. However, it is 30

difficult to know whether they were created with any regard to middle class Indian tourism development to Abu Dhabi. Potential attractions for Abu Dhabi to consider as a way to draw more leisure traffic from India would be to sponsor/host more cultural arts events that appeal to Indian cultural tourists. Particularly since cultural tourism represents enormous growth opportunities to Abu Dhabi’s future, as a center of cultural activity. The TCA Abu Dhabi New Delhi branch could be instrumental in forging relationships with cultural/arts organizations all over India. Moreover, since developing ties with cultural agencies in India would be a logical step to facilitate hosting more Indian events/attractions in Abu Dhabi. Additionally, more cultural events have the potential to benefit both outside Indian visitors and Indian UAE residents. From an audience development standpoint, this represents an enormous opportunity for Abu Dhabi’s cultural tourism sector. By forging partnerships with cultural/arts related agencies could lead to more leisure traffic to Abu Dhabi from India. In connection with public investment, I think overall tourism development is likely to be effective since Abu Dhabi invests in the right areas to attract more tourists who might not visit otherwise. Abu Dhabi has invested heavily in tourism infrastructure, transportation and attractions. The emirate capital uses public financing to invigorate other important areas including social and human resource development initiatives such as industry worker training programs, Emiratisation, sponsorship of destination awareness campaigns, protecting and promoting culture and heritage, collaborative initiatives with educational institutions- all areas of investment described in the previous literature that contributes to success.


As for short-term investments to build traffic from India, I think it is likely to work since the investment in an overseas office in New Delhi demonstrates Abu Dhabi’s commitment to Indian markets. Plus financing the national airlines and airport proves the leadership in Abu Dhabi supports key stakeholders/partners with their planning and expansion efforts. Lastly, I believe the broad branding efforts are likely to work considering how 

TCA Abu Dhabi’s New Delhi office builds destination awareness and supports DMCs and other stakeholders in promoting tourism products that appeal to Indian market segments.

The TCA Abu Dhabi/ Etihad Airways partnership raises awareness in India and successfully bring together all of Abu Dhabi’s stakeholders to promote the emirate capital through transactions that communicated Brand Abu Dhabi.

Destination marketers actively build awareness by creating interest in Abu Dhabi and educating potential visitors during road shows and exhibitions.

TCA Abu Dhabi continuous efforts to promote the emirate’s rich heritage, culture and history in chorus with the touristic attributes.

Yet, in my opinion the branding could be strengthened with respect to Abu Dhabi as a destination with middle-income tourist options. Based on my interviews, there seems to be some ambivalence in branding Abu Dhabi as a middle-income destination and this uncertainty causes mixed messages about whether Abu Dhabi wants to be identified as middle-income destination. Consequently Brand Abu Dhabi as a middle-income destination comes across a little confused. If Abu Dhabi is not sure it wants to be branded as a middle-income destination, it is unlikely to brand itself effectively considering the fear of reducing its up-market appeal. Potentially this is an area where the strategy could need some improvement. I propose that TCA 32

Abu Dhabi addresses it by establishing an industry development committee (IDC) consisting of stakeholders representing transportation companies, hotels, attractions, destination management companies, tour operators, travel agents, event organizers and retail outlets determine how best to position Brand Abu Dhabi to broaden its appeal to bring more leisure midmarket tourism to the destination. Alternatively Abu Dhabi’s positive tourism growth indicates they are experienced and their overall development strategy is working. And while some of Abu Dhabi growth may be due to Indian tourism development, it is too early to know since TCA Abu Dhabi rolled out the initial strategy in 2011. Something that this study does not consider is the spillover to other aspects such as how the strategy may diminish some of the attraction for high-income visitors. The study also has some limitation as a result of the number of stakeholders interviewed. Due to time constraints and availability, it was impossible to meet some industry representatives during my two weeks in the UAE. Future research including additional interviews with UAE stakeholders and a more thorough exploration of Indian leisure markets would enhance the study further.


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Appendix A Interview List

Mr. Al Harethi, Saood Abdulla Brand Support Services, Brand Department Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority P.O. Box 94000 Abu Dhabi, UAE

Mr. Oswald, Mike Park Manager Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi P.O. Box 128717 Abu Dhabi, UAE

Mr. Al Kendi, Nabil Chief Development Officer Tourism Development Investment Company P.O. Box 126888 Abu Dhabi, UAE

Mr. Singh, Kulwant Managing Director Lama Desert Tourism P.O. Box 20808 Dubai, UAE

Mr. Delcomminette, Luc Vice President Arabian Adventures P.O. Box 7631 Dubai, UAE

Ms. Vicky Varfis Corporate Vice President, Sales & Revenue Rotana Hotels P.O. Box 43500 Abu Dhabi, UAE

Mr. Horsley, William General Manager Al-Futtaim Travel P.O. Box 7880 Dubai, UAE

Mr. Wakim, Carlos-Antonio Senior Director-Development Tourism Development Investment Company P.O. Box 126888 Abu Dhabi, UAE

Mr. Klein, Moritz Area Vice President, Abu Dhabi & Al Ain Rotana Hotels P.O. Box 43500 Abu Dhabi, UAE currently General Manager, Eastern Mangroves Hotel & Spa and Area General Manager for Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas in Abu Dhabi

Appendix B 38

Emerging Markets Total Growth Forecasts in 2011-2014(%)


























South Africa





South Korea





Source: (BMI UAE Tourism Report Q4 2012 â&#x20AC;&#x153;63-64)


Appendix C

Abu Dhabi Hotel Establishmentsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; Guest Top 5 Countries Country Origin














58,584 in Q3
















Source: (TCA Abu Dhabi) (Gulf News)


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