Dubai Provides Model for Global Branding & Development

Matt Pertzsch, for GPA -- Over the New Year, I was fortunate to spend three weeks in Dubai with a group of 26 other Villanova University MBA students. My journey was made possible through Villanova, which has forged a relationship with the American University in the United Arab Emirates.

While in Dubai, our hosts helped coordinate local speakers and allowed us to use their facilities for business meetings. During our farewell ceremony they also offered every student a full scholarship to return to the school in the summer and learn Arabic. What was clear is that this type of association is an example of how education can be a bridge between cities and cultures.

During our visit we met with numerous business leaders, both Emirati and foreign, and discussed with them their experiences doing business in the UAE. My peers and I saw the Dubai Financial Market (the Emirati NYSE) and discussed with traders their experiences dealing in an equity market that is still in its infancy. Additionally we met with the CEO of TECOM Investments and talked about some of the nuances in communication involved while performing business negotiations in the Middle East.

Ultimately, my goal as a business student was to understand how companies function in that region, what are some of the challenges they face and what is the general outlook for a city that has already experienced such rapid growth in the previous decade.

In retrospect, one of the most compelling aspects about Dubai is that much like Philadelphia, the city wants to continue to be recognized globally both as a major business hub and a travel destination. However, the biggest problem that Dubai faces, in broad terms, is name recognition and brand awareness, especially outside of the region.

To combat this issue, both the government and local businesses have aligned to embark on a global marketing initiative. For instance, the airline Emirates, which flies out of Dubai to over 140 destinations worldwide, has made monumental strides in putting the city on the map. Aside from providing ease of transport in and out of the country, the airline has been able to spread the word by sponsoring several European sports clubs and stadiums.

Furthermore, the city has also established a successful tourism campaign which is fueled by its website Definitely Dubai. Through this highly trafficked portal they have been able to promote both the local culture of acceptance and the safety of travel for tourists.

Finally, Dubai has recently secured its bid for the World Expo 2020, an event that has never before been hosted in a Middle Eastern country. In all, the expo is anticipated to draw over 25 million people to the city to engage in discussions of sustainability, mobility and opportunity. In the end, it will be a culmination of everything Dubai has tried to achieve as a city and a springboard into its plans for the future.

In summation, a city that was mostly desert at the turn of the century has been able to turn itself into a global city in less than 15 years. This took both foresight and commitment on the part of its leaders as well as support from within the community. However, the importance that is assigned to drawing positive attention to your city cannot be understated.

Although this process is not a simple endeavor, other cities such as Philadelphia can learn from Dubai’s transformation. Hopefully by emulating and reimagining what others have done, we, too, can reap the benefits that go along with the title of a worldly city.

All photos courtesy of Matt Pertzsch