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Reinventing tourism: the Dubai phenomenon

Angela Anthonisz (Department of Events Tourism and Hospitality Management, University of Northampton, Northampton, UK)
Gary Mason (Department of Events Tourism and Hospitality Management, University of Northampton, Northampton, UK)

Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes

ISSN: 1755-4217

Article publication date: 10 June 2019




Dubai has been largely under-researched as a destination, particularly from a tourism perspective. Most current knowledge about the emirate tends to originate from broadcast media coverage, newspapers and business journals. Much of the recent academic research on the destination often positions Dubai in a broader development or management framework, resulting in what can be a narrow and largely western-oriented perspective that fails to highlight or identify many of the key issues underpinning its apparent success.


This research adopts an ethnographic approach based on the authors’ experiences in the destination and sets out to address this issue not only by presenting new information but also by analysing and explaining Dubai’s tourism development approach.


Some 40 years ago, Dubai was little more than a backwater tribal settlement, dependent on pearl fishing, trade and limited oil reserves. In 2018, it is now viewed as a futuristic city-state, rapidly expanding its global outreach and undertaking a range of high-profile development projects and acquisitions. The award of Expo 2020 has boosted government confidence in the sector with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing planning to increase visitor numbers to 25 million by 2020 with an anticipated tripling of the associated economic benefit. However, despite its remarkable success, Dubai has been criticised for flying in the face of global sustainability trends and needs to think seriously about how it will manage the growth of its tourism industry.


Dubai has evolved to become one of the world’s leading tourism destinations, and it has done so despite our academic notions of sustainability, tourism planning, tourism resource requirements and demands for authenticity. This provides an opportunity for the authors to use Dubai as a vehicle through which to challenge these concepts and to move the established notions of “traditional” tourism thinking forward to acknowledge the value of alternative approaches to the creation of a tourism strategy.



Anthonisz, A. and Mason, G. (2019), "Reinventing tourism: the Dubai phenomenon", Worldwide Hospitality and Tourism Themes, Vol. 11 No. 3, pp. 279-286.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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