Gulf states set for image makeover

25 May 2001

Countries in the Gulf region hoping to grab a share of the tourism business currently being by nurtured by Dubai have been urged to develop an image positioning the Gulf states as an individual area and not as a part of the Middle East.

Daniela Wagner, vice president corporate affairs with the World Travel and Tourism Council, told the Arabian Travel Market conference in Oman, “When prospective tourists see this region, they must think quality, diversity and safety.”

Gulf states have agreed to look at an action plan embracing “umbrella” tourism marketing of the region by NTOs, hotels, tour operators and airlines, and to address issues such as training.

A “Fly the Gulf” fare is one idea under consideration by the airlines.

“Timing is essential,” warned Wagner. “But do not use the need for more time as an excuse to do nothing. The global marketplace is very competitive and becoming more sophisticated and clever in its efforts to attract customers.”

The high cost and the requirement to obtain visas for individual countries in the Gulf has been a deterrent to regional tourism.

A recent joint visa agreement between Oman and Dubai is already bringing more tourists to Oman, and may be the forerunner of similar visa agreements between other Gulf states.

Mohsin bin Khamis Al Balushi, tourism undersecretary in Oman’s Ministry of Commerce and Industry, said that the fast developing region was rich in tourism potential “which needs to be harnessed and exploited through organised collective efforts. Scandinavia and the Caribbean are the star examples for us to follow.”

He said the arrangement with Dubai to promote tourism at both ends was paying rich dividends. “We are being prompted to enter into such deals not only with other emirates of the UAE but four other fellow GCC states – Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.”

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