x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Qasr Al Hosn success shows an inward approach to UAE tourism is needed

As the Qasr Al Hosn Festival draws to a close, Khalid Al Ameri reflects on its cultural significance.

There is nothing that lights the UAE up like its leaders, citizens and residents coming together to celebrate the rich history and people whose hard work has given the Emirates the prosperity and dignity we pride ourselves on. Thanks to the phenomenal work of the Sheikha Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, the Qasr Al Hosn Festival, centred around Abu Dhabi's oldest building, has done just that.

For those who know Qasr Al Hosn, it is an opportunity to remember. For those who don't know, they can learn. And for those just visiting, they can experience. A country's culture is the backbone of its identity; it shapes what this country has become, and hopefully everything it will become, which is why preserving culture is of the utmost importance, both socially and economically.

Socially, when you think about how we live and operate as a society, and how our ancestors lived just 50 years ago, day and night have more similarities. Which is why places like Qasr Al Hosn are so important: they remind us of what was, what might have been and what is possible with determination and hard work.

Symbols of the UAE's recent successes, such as the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, have made their marks on the world. But ancient and historic symbols of past prosperity are what motivate and drive people today; we must protect them with as many resources as possible.

Emirati culture, unlike say that of Egypt or Turkey, is not infrastructure heavy. Nevertheless, the UAE does have centuries-old monuments and buildings that bring history to life. As bedouins most of our culture is made up of our journeys, stories, thoughts and poetry. This is why those tangible pieces of history must be preserved, embraced and celebrated above all the high-rise buildings, plush cafes and fancy hotels.

Economically, the UAE's tourism industry generated Dh22 billion in revenues last year, according to the National Council for Tourism and Antiquities, which is approximately 7 per cent of GDP. Tourism has worked wonders for the UAE, Dubai being the standout example; there, tourism contributes to about one third of its GDP.

If finance has taught me anything it is that any project is based on how much you spend initially, and how much cash you gain from that investment over the future life of the project. The UAE's tourism industry has come on the back of heavy government investments into contemporary attractions. But a more inward approach to tourism, focusing on genuine Emirati culture and spirit, could reap even greater rewards and give the Emirates a competitive edge for generations to come.

These are beautiful times for the UAE; the nation has an opportunity to invest in the past to bring it forth for the world to see. By nurturing and preserving both the tangible and intangible forms of our history, we will guarantee that our true wealth is maintained for generations to come.

Khalid Al Ameri is a social affairs commentator studying for his MBA at Stanford University in California

On Twitter: @KhalidAlAmeri