Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi): Interview

Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi)

Interview: Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak

In what ways will the new five-year plan for the culture sector feed into overall strategies for boosting tourism, and how will this contribute to GDP?

MOHAMED KHALIFA AL MUBARAK: In November 2019 the five-year Culture Sector Strategy was released by DCT Abu Dhabi, with an aim to strengthen the foundations of the emirate’s cultural offerings. Five objectives were set: to preserve cultural heritage; to increase awareness of cultural heritage; to stimulate creativity; to build capacity; and to contribute to economic growth and diversification. Abu Dhabi has prioritised five areas of creativity: heritage; multimedia and gaming; architecture and design; visual arts; and music. These are based on our strengths and global trends. Between 2019 and 2024 we will deliver 860 initiatives related to culture and the creative industries. This will lead to these important and emerging industries contributing Dh28bn ($7.6bn) to GDP and creating 45,000 jobs by 2024.

The successful execution of the strategy will not only position Abu Dhabi as a global cultural capital, but also act as a key driver of economic change. The creative industry is growing three times quicker than the global economy, and is the fastest-growing sector in the Middle East. DCT Abu Dhabi will track the contributions of the cultural and creative industries to GDP and employment, as well as quantify their social impact.

How can strategy evolve to better cater to source markets such as India and China, and what steps are being taken to reach untapped markets?

AL MUBARAK: India and China are our top overseas source markets, with more than 450,000 Indians and 396,000 Chinese visiting the emirate in 2019. The UK follows, with 267,000 visiting that year. DCT Abu Dhabi has strategically implemented several initiatives designed to attract and cater to these visitors, including through partnerships with technology companies, road shows and promotional exhibitions, and festivals and events. Our road shows have been to less-targeted cities such as Kunming and Shenzhen in China, and Chandigarh, Ahmedabad and Pune in India. In the future we will look to spread our message as widely as possible, both demographically and geographically.

We are also investing heavily in data analytics, as these tools give us the ability to track and better understand our target markets. This ultimately allows us to more effectively engage with potential visitors. The current metrics we use allow us to treat each country as a unique market and avoid a universal approach that would lead to a waste of effort, time and investment.

We are constantly keeping targeting emerging markets, but our main focus is to maximise our potential in our more established markets. The latest figures show our hard work is paying off. The emirate hosted more than 5.1m hotel guests in 2019, up 2.1% from 2018.

What opportunities are there in business tourism, and what is being done to promote it?

AL MUBARAK: DCT Abu Dhabi has its own specialised Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, which was established specifically to support the development and promotion of business events. The bureau runs the Advantage Abu Dhabi programme, an incentive initiative designed to increase the emirate’s value proposition and provide support throughout the event planning cycle. Additionally, earlier this year DCT Abu Dhabi also announced a Dh600m ($163.3m) fund to attract business and entertainment events to the emirate.

UAE leadership is firmly committed to promoting the country as a meetings , incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE) centre, as shown with the launch of Ghadan 21, or Tomorrow 21, in 2019. Some of the programme’s Dh50bn ($13.6bn) budget will be used to stimulate MICE and other business activities in the capital. Attracting high-profile MICE events will give us an opportunity to further showcase our facilities and infrastructure, not only to the attendees, but also to the wider business community and the world at large.

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