1st virtual excursion
Dubai and Oman, winter term 2020-2021
Tourism Development Studies
In 2020 everything was different. The COVID-19 pandemic controlled the whole world. The global travel ban affected us not only privately, but also on the educational level: Within the module of “Tourism in Practice” it was not possible to conduct the “International Fieldtrip” the way it is described in the curriculum of Tourism Development Strategies (TDS).
Nevertheless, we did not let it spoil our mood. The desire to learn about other cultures and organizations was unbroken. Even though physical travels to Oman and Dubai were not possible, we had the chance to travel to these countries virtually. Ms. Schnierer and Prof. Klage were able to schedule online meetings with different organizations located in Dubai and Oman.
In order to get a general overview of the countries of Oman and Dubai, two students prepared a presentation including the most important facts and figures. Throughout the whole semester, all students were separated into groups and had to present a given topic dealing with the infrastructure and sustainability, as well as different kinds of tourism in these countries. Furthermore, two students created a website, highlighting the most interesting sights, which should be visited when traveling to Oman and Dubai.
The first field trip meeting took place on the 27th of October. On this day we had the pleasure to meet Jan Leube, the creative director of Keko in Dubai. Mr. Leube emigrated from Germany to Dubai, therefore, he was able to give interesting insights about the differences between the culture and moreover, about living and working in the United Arab Emirates. Further on, he provided tips about how a perfect day in Dubai could be spent.
his meeting was followed by a conference with Arun Raj from Zahara Tours on the 10th of November. Zahara Tours is the oldest tour operator in the country of Oman. Mr. Raj started the meeting with a short introduction of the agency and continued with a picturesque presentation of the destination Oman, waking up a feeling of wanderlust in all of us. Furthermore, we had the chance to learn about the national tourism strategy of the government. While answering all kinds of questions from our side, Mr. Raj also mentioned the consequences arising from the COVID-19 pandemic for the agency as well as for the whole country.
One week later, we met Mr. Lobo, Director Sales & Event at Grand Hyatt Hotel in Muscat. After he introduced himself as well as the city of Muscat and Hyatt Hotel, he emphasized differences between Dubai and Oman. Especially people who have never travelled to several regions of the Arabian Peninsula tend to forget about the individualistic characteristics and differences of these countries. Therefore, it was very enriching to hear about his personal insights.
Afterwards, we virtually travelled back to Dubai, where we had the chance to meet Tim Jacobs and Fareed from HQ Worldwide Shows on the 23rd of November. HQ Worldwide Shows is a company which organizes public and private mega events all around the globe with their headquarter being located in Dubai. During this meeting, the two of them told us about their biggest events, for example the holy mass for the visit of pope Francis with more than 195.000 guests. Thanks to this meeting we received interesting insights into the work of an event agency and even got offered internships.
One day after, on the 24th of November a meeting with Maria Abdel Rahman from Nakheel, a company based in Dubai, was held. Nakheel is the organization that planned and constructed the famous palm tree and the world map in front of the coast of Dubai. Ms. Rahman explained the whole process from the first idea until the realization of these projects. Furthermore, she talked about projects which are already in construction as well as about potential future projects.
On the 8th of December we had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Khalid Abdulwahab Ahmed Al Balushi, Senior Manager Government Affairs and CEO’s Advisor Office of Oman Air. He provided insights about the national airline and highlighted the increase of domestic tourism caused by COVID-19, but also the difficulties arising from the worldwide pandemic for the air travel industry in general.
After all these presentations we had earned a bright knowledge about living, organizing events, flying, and working as a tour operator on the Arabian Peninsula. Nevertheless, one sector was still missing. What was it? Right, the sea! Fortunately, the topic of the next meeting was cruise tourism.
For this we met Dr. Manuela Gutberlet on the 14th of December. She is working as a lecturer for various universities and is currently writing a book with the title: “Mega-Cruise Tourism and Overtourism on the Arabian Peninsula”. As she has lived and worked in Oman, she was able to share first-hand information. During her presentation she highlighted threats that often accompany cruise tourism and the effects on the local community.
The Christmas and New Year’s break stopped our field trip for two weeks and gave everybody the possibility to relax and spend quality time with the family. To have a fresh start into 2021, the first event was organized on the 5th of January. The meeting was different from the ones that took place before, because we had the chance to have a casual discussion with students from the German University of Technology (GUtech) in Muscat, Oman, which is a partner of the University of Applied Sciences Stralsund. Therefore, the students were split into three groups. The break-out rooms enabled a relaxed atmosphere and allowed interesting discussions about difficulties of studying in Oman, however also taboo topics like gender roles were approached.
One week later, on the 12th of January a meeting with Mr. Nagy Abu Zeid, Vice President Corporate Planning at Muscat International Airport took place. After presenting the airport, he spoke about the impacts of the pandemic on air travel worldwide, but especially in Oman. Further on, he highlighted the relation between COVID-19, digitalization, and innovation, which provided us an interdisciplinary view on these topics.
On the 19th of January we had the pleasure of talking to Mr. Günther, the Executive Marketing Tourism of Dubai Tourism Office in Frankfurt. This meeting was a great possibility for us to recap all information received from the other presentations, as Mr. Günther focused on introducing on-site activities in Dubai.
The last session was a special one planned by our professors and took place on the 25th and 26th of January. This event was executed in cooperation with Take Memories, a company which offers package tours all over the globe. During the pandemic, the organization started providing virtual tours by using VR-Glasses. Within this two-day lasting event, we first had the chance to get to know the company by a short presentation. Afterwards we experienced among others a live walking tour through the mosque in Oman by wearing our VR glasses, conducted by one of the employees who was on-site. This was an immersive experience and woke up wanderlust in all of us, which was even amplified by learning how to tie a turban, eating dates, smelling perfume, and tasting tea from Oman, that everyone has received beforehand.
We want to thank everyone who participated in our virtual field trip and gave us the chance to learn and deepen our knowledge about the countries and cultures of Dubai and Oman. Even though all of us would have loved to travel to the destinations ourselves, (well, if not why should we study tourism?) we understand that it was not possible this semester. Therefore, we really appreciate the possibility to travel virtually and network with personalities acting in the Arabian tourism sector. After experiencing Dubai and Oman theoretically and virtually, our next goal will definitely be to visit it personally.
Amelie & Melissa,
TDS master students, 1st semester