Danny Rogers: Dubai must move beyond the hype

It may be symbolic that the Dubai crisis story broke in the week PRWeek launched its first truly global edition.

Danny Rogers
Danny Rogers

With the shock waves from the Dubai financial scare still reverberating around the world, it reminds us that business and communications can no longer afford to be parochial in outlook.

Indeed, as well as news and interviews, the inaugural edition of PRWeek Global (available at prweek.com/uk/channel/global) takes a closer look at PR and the media in Dubai, including a round-up of last week's Mepra Awards 2009, which cover the wider region.

During this long recession, and in the years preceding it, the Middle East has been a goldmine for many UK PR professionals.

Not only has it provided jobs for enterprising expats, but a great deal of work for UK-based agencies.

From the promotion of Dubai as a financial and tourism centre, to Abu Dhabi's investments in major football clubs, some of the biggest PR accounts of the past two years have emerged from the region.

Now there are concerns over the sustainability of Dubai, in particular. In the short-term one wonders how many UK PR agencies may be exposed to debtors there?

In the longer term, the big networks must review the growth potential of some of their offices in the region. This is not to say we will see an end to the party in Dubai. UK journalists tend to view such issues in terms of simple boom or bust. The reality must be more complex.

However, it does look like communicators at every level in the emirate must at least reassess their work. Dubai's rulers have tended to be less than transparent during the years of growth. They have been keen to throw money at promotion and hype, but less happy to reveal the intricacies of their operations and financing.

Now they have a challenge. If Dubai is going to continue its phenomenal growth as a business and leisure hub for the West, it must prove itself as a more mature, open and democratic state. It also means properly addressing deeply worrying allegations in terms of the way it treats part of the labour force.

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