The Business Year

Sultan Al Mutawa Al Dhaheri

Director Tourism Ecosystem, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority

HE Hoda Al Khamis-Kanoo

Founder, Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF)

How compatible is the curating of culture and tourism in an environmentally friendly manner with large-scale urbanization? SULTAN AL MUTAWA AL DHAHERI Our development is sustainable. When we engage in […]

How compatible is the curating of culture and tourism in an environmentally friendly manner with large-scale urbanization?

SULTAN AL MUTAWA AL DHAHERI Our development is sustainable. When we engage in development, we make sure that the environment is carefully protected and have put in place a number of safeguards such as health, safety, and environmental (HSE) regulations for all hotels, which is a good initiative that is getting results. A good example of this is Saadiyat Island, where we have constructed a variety of hotels, whilst still preserving the nesting grounds of the resident turtles. The Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) devised the Hawksbill Sea Turtle Conservation Programme, the only one of its kind in the Arabian Gulf. An environmental impact assessment was carried out that documented nesting activity, established management guidelines, set up a dune protection zone, as well as penning beach development guidelines. Designers had to ensure lighting faced inward, away from the seashore so as not to disorientate the turtles as they made their way to sea. Resort development on Saadiyat beach was restricted to at least 60 meters back from the seaward edge of the coastal dunes, creating a buffer zone between construction and the nesting beach. Night work was also minimized to limit light and noise. As the resorts opened, operational guidelines further protected the nesting sites. Beach access by guests was also restricted whereby they reached the shore via elevated boardwalks, leaving the delicate dune system and nests intact. Night lighting is dimmed to help the hatchling turtles’ orientation toward the sea. Nests are logged and avoided by beach maintenance crews, and all beach furniture is removed nightly from the beach to clear the hatchlings’ way to the open sea.

HE HODA AL KHAMIS-KANOO At the heart of urbanization and industrial growth is the need to create employment, business, and networking opportunities; one needs to bring true thinkers to Abu Dhabi. This is the power of the arts. Indeed, arts and culture are vital for infrastructural development and urban growth because of their intrinsic ability to speak to the most valuable asset of the country; the young. Nationwide, the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (ADMAF) involves possibly the largest number of young people in the arts. Our strength is our ability to develop their skills to best prepare them for entry to the workforce. The other is the Abu Dhabi Festival. Abu Dhabi will boast many museums and arts centers, including one for the performing arts. These will add to the momentum created by the Abu Dhabi Festival and further the touristic appeal of the Emirate. Arts and culture are in fact bringing another dimension to the economy of Abu Dhabi. Just look at the US, where non-profit art organizations generate $135 billion annually in economic activity, supporting 4.1 million jobs, and generating $22 billion-$23 billion in government revenues. Numerous studies—most recently by the OECD—affirm that arts education in schools fosters learning as well as skills critical for innovation. It is vital that non-profit arts organizations exist to contribute to future business and economic success. This is essential for a country’s sustainable development.

In line with Vision 2030, Abu Dhabi aims to have attracted 2.5 million tourists in 2013. What strategy was implemented to achieve this goal?

SMD Firstly, we are working with Etihad to expand into fresh markets and encourage new visitors. We also have international offices that take care of local promotion. In addition, we run tourism operations in conjunction with our trade activities overseas. We will continue to look at both our traditional source markets and at expanding new ones, especially in the Arabian Gulf, Eastern Europe, and the Far East.

How important is bringing branded museums, such as the Guggenheim and the Louvre, to Abu Dhabi in order to identify the city as a cultural destination?

HK To identify a city as a cultural destination, you need to take the lead in culture. Since HH Sheikh Zayed founded the UAE, it has been known as the land of blessings, a land of tolerance, of enlightenment, and of respect. Museums are witnesses to the accumulation of our memories, our history, and our culture. They are also the proof of social change. They are, therefore, a part of the equation for a cultural destination, but so too is education, as well as investing in the arts. Abu Dhabi is becoming not just a cultural destination, but also a creative one.

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