The Abu Dhabi Police have created a flyer detailing appropriate behavior for tourists visiting the UAE. The flyer, which is available in 12 languages, is intended to increase tourist awareness of local culture and laws, as well as whom to contact in an emergency. This is especially important as several activities that are commonplace in the West are illegal in the UAE. Like its neighbor, Dubai, Abu Dhabi is facing tensions between upholding the values of the local Emirati population while still accommodating the habits and desires of its many foreigners, both tourists and expat workers, in order to help the economy. The significance of this issue will only increase as Abu Dhabi continues to work on its many major tourism initiatives.
Brigadier Omeir Al Muhairi, Deputy Director of Police Operations at Abu Dhabi Police GHQ, explained, “The code of ethics has been issued to ensure that tourists fully adhere to local rules and regulations, and do not upset the traditional and cultural values. The guideline has been prepared so the tourists have all the comfort and enjoy their visit at the same time ensuring the security of the society and respect of traditional and religious values.”
“The guidelines are explained in simple and clear format in order to instill a sense of safety among tourists and protect them from unpleasant incidents that occur to them. The flyer is a way of communication with tourists that offers preventive guidelines for their safety,” he added.
The ethics guide provides information to prevent tensions between tourists and locals. For example, it recommends not eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours in Ramadan. Additionally, it warns tourists against public displays of affection, and provides advice on appropriate attire, beach attire, respect for religious places and occasions, and photography in restricted areas. The guide reminds tourists that drug possession and use are prohibited under UAE law, as well as prostitution, drunk driving, and consuming alcohol without a license.
Lastly, the guide provides safety information for tourists, including advising against carrying large amounts of cash, information on using credit cards, the need to carry identification and emergency contact numbers, and the phone number for tourism police in the event of an emergency. Tourists can reach police by dialing either 999 or 8002626.
Abu Dhabi has dedicated a tremendous amount of money to projects in the tourism sector in order to make it more competitive with its sister emirate, Dubai. The emirate is constructing cultural projects, such as the museums on Saadiyat Island, and the entertainment venues, like the Formula One racetrack and the concert arena, on Yas Island. The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Tourism has been advertising the emirate internationally, including taking over New York’s Times Square to promote all Abu Dhabi has to offer.
This hard work appears to be paying off. Abu Dhabi hosted 2.1 million visitors in 2011, with a 22 percent increase in guest nights. For the first quarter of 2012, the number of visitors was up 29 percent year-on-year. Tourism brought in AED 4.375 billion to the emirate last year.
However, as tourism increases, the risk of tensions between locals and foreigners will rise. Although other Arabs represent the bulk of Abu Dhabi’s current tourists, Europeans and Asians represented a third of all tourists to the emirate. In fact, the top two countries in terms of visitors to Abu Dhabi are the United Kingdom and India, both of which have seen sharp increases in the number of tourists.
It is therefore possible that Abu Dhabi will see the same sorts of issues that Dubai is facing, the latest being a Twitter campaign by locals to encourage foreigners to dress more modestly in public. Although Dubai does not always enforce rules on public decency, a British couple faced several months in prison for having sex on the beach. Two other Britons were jailed and fined for what they described as an innocent peck on the cheek in greeting.