Original article: “Dubai promotes Ramadan to Japanese” was posted on in September last year and written by Michael Verikios.

The article elaborates on a marketing and promotional initiative of the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), which aimed at increasing the number of overseas visitors to Dubai during the Holy Month of Ramada by launching the “Dubai – Taste of Ramadan” travel campaign in the Japanese market.

Essay by Eva Maria Störmer
Master in Tourism Destination Management student 2008/2009

The article “Dubai promotes Ramadan to Japanese” elaboartes on a campaign launched by the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) in 2007 aiming at the Japanese Market.

“The DTCM initiative is a tourism campaign targeting Japanese leisure travelers to visit Dubai during the Holy Month and to experience first-hand the cultural attractions of Dubai during this special occasion.”

It was the first time in the world that a tourism office launched such a campaign, highlighting the attractions of Ramadan to a non-Muslim overseas market. As part of the program a special brochure in Japanese language, highlighting “Ramadan Tours”, provided visitors with information about the attractions of Dubai during Ramadan as well as details of the Holy Month.

It seems as the campaign was a success in the Japanese travel industry as 10 Japanese travel wholesalers and travel agents created special “Ramadan Tours” aiming at further promoting the cultural attractions of Dubai.

The long time goal of this marketing campaign, according to spokesmen of DTCM`s was also to achieve greater mutual understanding between the two cultures at the “grass-roots level” – meaning, in the framework of “People or society at a local level rather than at the center of major political activity”.

The culturally themed tours were mainly aimed at Japan’s “[…] senior leisure and young culture seeking women market segments who seek cross-cultural experiences with locals when choosing a potential holiday destination.”  The idea to such campaign has its roots in the fact that there appears to be great interest among the Japanese regarding Arab and Islamic culture. However, due to distance and language differences many Japanese had no access or connection to Dubai’s cultural attractions.

Last it is being mentioned in the article, that the success of the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing’s in the Japanese market was recognized by the Japanese tourism industry itself. DTCM has been awarded the “Best Tourism Office” award by the Japan Association of Travel Agents (JATA). Last year it was only the second time JATA has presented this award.

In my opinion, this article connects with topic one of our sessions – international tourism, globalization and to be more specific: cross cultural tourism marketing. According to D. Buhalis “Cross cultural marketing can be applied to global as well as domestic-ethnic markets”  and is based on the use of knowledge and information about a specific market. It is being pointed out that cross-cultural marketing should not be mixed up with international marketing or globalization, although the concept has been linked to it and the view that the world is a single market.

This view on consumers with a single global culture, where the marketing mix can just be standardized for the global market could be confirmed when looking at the Japanese and Arabic market, having nothing in common on the first sight. However, it becomes clear very fast that “[…] knowledge of cultural differences and similarities is important in the development of international and ethnic marketing strategies.”

Marketing strategies or promotion strategies consists of various components. Communications, advertising, personal selling and publicity and public relation are components that need to be taken into consideration with cross-cultural promotion. As D. Buhalis explains “among all components of communications, language is the key component”.  The langauge barrier has been overcome by the DTCM with its Japanese brochure, conveying a message aimed at meeting consumer’s interests as well as needs.

Finally, it should be noted that there are tremendous pitfalls involved in cross cultural marketing and adressing foreign markets in a foreign language. “Although cruel, cross cultural marketing mistakes are a humorous means of understanding the impact poor cultural awareness or translations can have on a product or company when selling abroad.”  A good example is ‘traficante’, an Italian mineral water which found a great reception in Spain’s underworld – in Spanish it translates as “drug dealer”.