Dubai hires Limelight for UK tourism push

PR company aims to overcome the emirate's perceived restrictiveness

The Burj Khalifa is one of Dubai's best tourist attractions.
The Burj Khalifa is one of Dubai's best tourist attractions.

The Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing has appointed independent travel PR agency Limelight to manage its UK PR account.

The UK is currently the third largest source market in the world for visits to Dubai, where global tourist numbers totalled over nine million visitors in 2011.

Limelight’s remit will include raising Dubai’s profile as a tourism and commerce destination in the UK and Ireland amid media reports of British tourists falling foul of the emirate's decency laws.

A key focus for the agency will be to re-educate the market about the misconceptions held by UK consumers and trade about Dubai as a destination including how family friendly Dubai is, affordability, cultural offering, ongoing development and perceived restrictiveness.

Ian Scott, UK & Ireland director, Dubai Department of Tourism & Commerce Marketing, said: “I am delighted to have Limelight on board to help us achieve our business goals and PR objectives.

“Their response to our brief was excellent, particularly impressing us with their creative ideas and proven results in delivering highly targeted results driven PR campaigns.”

Manty Atherton, head of travel and lifestyle, Limelight, added: “Dubai is unique as a travel proposition – both as a diverse tourist destination offering a range of attractions catering to all tastes and budgets, and as a dynamic international business centre.

“We are very much looking forward to working with the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, cementing Dubai as a must see Travel destination for 2013 and beyond.”

In November, a British woman and Irish man accused of engaging in sexual activities in a Dubai taxi were sentenced to three months in prison and then deportation.

The case was the latest in which Westerners have fallen foul of the UAE's decency laws, highlighting cultural differences as the UAE seeks a balance between maintaining its Muslim identity and catering for a vibrant tourism industry.

In 2008, a British couple was found guilty of engaging in drunken sexual activity out of wedlock and in public on a beach in Dubai. They were sentenced to three months in prison followed by deportation but had their jail terms overturned on appeal.

In 2010, another British couple were sentenced to a month in jail and fined for kissing on the mouth in a restaurant in Dubai.

The cultural chasm in the Gulf Arab state between the country's native Muslim population and the expatriates community, is conspicuous in everyday life.

While Emirati women cover themselves from head to toe with a headscarf and a traditional black gown, some of their Western expatriate counterparts walk around in shorts or mini-skirts, and public beaches are full of tourists sunbathing in bikinis.

Islam bans alcohol for Muslims. In the UAE, non-Muslims can drink at most hotels and beach bars where all-you-can-drink brunches heave with revellers every weekend.

Expatriates make up nearly 90 percent of the UAE's population.

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