GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

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Title of Paper:
A New Trans-National Ground Mobility Infrastructure for GCC Countries as Key Enabler for a Mid-Term Strategy for Tourism
Paper Proposal Text :
The Motivation for this proposal starts out from three main observations: The GCC region increasingly offers airport capacities that provide world-class infrastructure for incoming and transiting mobility. In order to enhance tourism beyond the current forms mainly confined to the limits of urban structures and make it a true regional tourism, air travel infrastructure needs a complement on the ground: Projections of travel demand evolution based on learnings from other regions show that the current situation of a ground transportation system based entirely on road and air transportation is lacking a crucial piece of infrastructure. This gap is to be covered by a trans-national combined rail, express bus and local light rail integrated ground transportation system. Then, tourism research shows that medium- to long-distance coach travel is not attractive and will not capture the premium segments of the market that are in line with recent developments of hospitality infrastructure in the Gulf region. Finally, an analysis of the mega-trends in the global tourism industry with their quest for authenticity and unique experiences on one hand, and the fastest-growing segments in hospitality both in the "luxury budget" and "full luxury" segments on the other hand, together with an extrapolation of current expertise in the Gulf region show that a transportation system as suggested provides the missing link both for the segments of Business Travel, Conferencing and Leisure Tourism.

From this can be deducted that the key requirements are to provide attractive, secure, fast and comfortable means of transportation that make transportation itself an integral part of the touristic experience. In line with other projected developments of the region, the goal must be an affordable luxury standard in integrated rail and bus travel, taking in expertise from international rail operators and blending it with own success models and learnings from airline operation, the declared goal being to become a benchmark in interconnected medium-distance public transport in the fields of both comfort and performance (speed, reliability, economic success).

Beyond the projects for high-speed rail lines that exist in some GCC countries, the focus on the requirements of tourism shows that it is the time to connect them and enhance a true trans-national planning: This will foster both the economic collaboration, trade, resident, building material and freight exchange, lowering costs and making travel and transport safer, and at the same time be both an incubator and a facilitator for tourism. Key is the interconnection with urban transportation: Thus, the author suggests a hub and spoke rail system offering fast connection between regional transportation hubs. This calls for a classification of present tourist attractions according to their growth speed and potential, and an integration of projects for future attractions that are to be built: This way, an implementation and a seamless integration with the ground transportation network can be achieved.

International airport, cities and capitals will act as major hubs, minor cites and sites of touristic attractions as secondary hubs. A modularity in conceptualization as well as infrastructure development (present and future) allows for a quick adaptation to future unforeseen changes in development. Light rail systems operate locally for last-mile distribution in inner city areas and major tourist attractions. Here, numbers show that as a particularity of such poles of tourism in the GCC region, they in many cases do now or will in the near future attract visitor numbers requiring capacities far beyond the capacities that can be provided by bus or coach shuttles.

The strenghts of this model include that the same-level integration of sites of religious tourism, historic tourism and leisure tourism work against any forms of unwanted segregation and present the GCC countries as open on the world in a contemporary form compliant with the customs of international tourism, yet respecting and preserving the Gulf region's strong social and religious heritages. The chance to build infrastructure from scratch presents the unique chance to start early in the process, providing a highly sustainable, environmentally conscious transportation system for the Gulf Region which will quickly take the roles both as a tool as an iconic representation: Within a decade, the GCC countries can become a world-wide model region for interconnected tourism and at the same time, provide a tool to interconnect citizen's mobility and trans-national trade, reflecting the political economy of the territories, ultimately strengthening the GCC region as a whole, enhancing and shaping it's identity.