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FOR THE SAKE OF TOURSIM: Putting the 'United' back into the UAE.

FOR THE SAKE OF TOURSIM: Putting the 'United' back into the UAE.

Putting the 'UAE' on the map needs to be a concerted effort...

May 1, 2012 3:37 by

The enigma of the Emirates is lost on me. Everyday on my way to and from work, I see the world’s tallest building, the world’s only seven star hotel and the world’s largest shopping mall. There is something about seeing these iconic structures so regularly that renders them rather plain. Which is why, I find it rather odd when friends from abroad tell me they want to travel miles upon miles to come visit Dubai. My usual response tends to be a little negative, in part because I hate playing host, but mostly, because I really don’t think there is much to see here in Dubai. I usually advise them to visit for a weekend, or a week, at most.

But, on second thought, Kipp has to admit that the days of Dubai being the sole attraction of the UAE for tourists are long over. Nowadays, there is plenty to be seen all over the Emirates- in the capital, a tourist is spoilt for choice from the Grand Mosque, the mangroves, or a state-of-the-art Formula One race track and inspired theme-park. Real Madrid is setting up a branded holiday resort in Ras Al Khaimah, and Sharjah’s Majaz Waterfront and the Qasba are always worth a visit.

Yet the reason why I wouldn’t advise the average tourist to set aside a good two weeks to travel across the Emirates is: it would be very difficult. There is a genuine lack of cohesion between the Emirates, and as a tourist, it would be nothing short of nightmare to get information on buses between cities, let alone trying to find out about neighboring attractions. As the UAE grows and develops, so too does this lack of cohesion between the Emirates – a fact best highlighted by the comments of the general secretary of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), who was speaking at the Arabian Travel Market about the possibility of membership. The UAE is one of the only countries in the region not part of the 155-member-strong UNWTO.

The UAE has failed to qualify for membership for several reasons, the most important being that every country must first nominate a unified federal ministry for tourism to represent them if the country wishes to become part of the body. Interestingly, up until 2009, the UAE did not have a federal regulatory body; instead, each Emirate would send their own tourism authorities to represent them at foreign travel shows. Things are getting better now, and since the creation of the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities (NCTA) in 2009, the UAE is one step closer to centralizing and standardizing tourism efforts.

Of course, this kind of unity on a smaller level could help boost the tourism economies not only of the smaller Emirates, but the country’s as a whole. Eliminating things such as a cab tax when crossing the Dubai-Sharjah border and instead, extending the Dubai Metro a few extra kilometers so it would reach Sharjah are baby steps forward. I eagerly wait for the day when the Emirates pool in resources to make the country at large, not a particular Emirate alone, a tourist destination. After all, to quote Aesop, ‘in union, there is strength.’

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