On conclusion of the trip, the students reflected on their experience by submitting a logbook that illustrated their reactions to the places they visited. In addition, they also submitted a response paper that asked them to utilize their experiences and additional readings to answer questions regarding competitive advantages, SWOT analyses, Porter’s Five Forces, economic and internal challenges, and future strategic initiatives for specific companies and the UAE economy.
In summary, the students who participated in the global immersion experience took part in on-campus lectures which included orientation and pre-departure meetings that provided introductory background material on the history, culture, and business environment of the UAE. They also researched Emirates Airlines and presented their critical analyses to representatives from the company. After the eleven-day trip, the students returned to the US and completed two course assignments. The first assignment was a logbook which encouraged the students to reflect and analyze the various business and cultural visits. The second assignment was a response paper that required the students to apply the knowledge they attained from the readings. This trip was a chance of a lifetime and truly a collection of experiences that will be a positive influence on the student’s business curriculum and future careers.
The students heard a presentation from two journalists from CNN International while visiting Abu Dhabi. CNNi produces a segment called “Along the Silk Road,” which reports on the interaction between world powers in the region spanning from China and the Far-East, to the Middle East. This program is unique from other CNN news casts because it moves away from the business of the world and rather has a personable focus on real individuals and their struggles and successes in different world regions. The journalists discussed that world trade and commerce is no longer dictated by the US or European governments, and other countries are currently engaging in the establishment of trade agreements throughout the region.
The ECSSR (or the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research is the information gathering sector of the UAE government. It is divided into three branches: Scientific Research Division, Community Services Division and Administrative Affairs Division. Both the Scientific Research Division and the Community Service Division work independently to collect information about events happening throughout the world so that the Emirati leaders can evaluate what the impact will be on the UAE. This division of the government was interesting because it demonstrates how the UAE constantly monitors world events to determine their impact on the country.
Aldar is a real estate, management and investment corporation contracted to complete the task of transforming Abu Dhabi into a center for international business and tourism. Aldar focuses on appealing to the people versus promoting buildings and infrastructure. Aldar wants to promote the experience a person can have on their properties, which is why the company has focused on creating thrills and adventures for the tourists of Abu Dhabi. Some of the developments include a Formula One racetrack, a marina, Ferrari World, the Yas Viceroy Hotel and a waterpark. Aldar is a progressive company which seeks out the best and brightest poeple to contribute to their projects without preferential treatment for certain races, nationalities, religions or genders, practices that many other UAE companies do not follow.
TDIC, also known as the Tourism Development and Investment Company, is in charge of facilitating the development of Abu Dhabi. TDIC is operated with the understanding that Abu Dhabi’s resources will not last forever, and it is crucial that they diversity and expand their available resources for investment. Abu Dhabi is learning from Dubai’s mistakes with regards to overbuilding and investment, but is using the successful and profitable parts of its neighboring Emirate’s economic model to develop a structured, stable and strategic economy. TDIC’s goal is to help Abu Dhabi become a world-class destination for tourists, businesses and residents, taking advantages of the nation’s currently booming tourism industry.
The ATIC, or Advanced Technology Investment Company is a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi’s Mubadala Development Company. Abu Dhabi recognizes the fact that it must diversify its economy so that it is not completely reliant on oil. Through ATIC, Abu Dhabi has decided that the way to diversify is by creating a way to invest in new and high-tech technologies. This appears to be the ideal industry because it is capital intensive, but has a long term positive return.
Students also visited Mubadala, the development company in charge of facilitating the diversification of Abu Dhabi’s economy. Mubadala is a government-owned entity that focuses on strategically managing long-term investments that will generate returns and tangible social benefits for the Emirate. This visit demonstrated the contrast between Abu Dhabi’s vision and that of Dubai, because while Dubai focuses on increasing its tourism and infrastructure, Abu Dhabi’s vision is to have an economy based on people and developing their potential and intellect.
Abu Dhabi, through the Masdar Initiative, has invested over $250 million into clean energy technology, start-up companies and global companies whose products adhere to the ideals of the initiative. The city is designed to be self-sufficient and has close to carbon neutral as possible. Masdar City hopes to be entirely solar-powered with zero-waste and zero-carbon ecology, as well as supporting sustainable transport, materials food and water. The self-sustained city is intended to model the viable potential for more alternative energy environments.
Students also visited the DIFC, (Dubai International Finance Centre) a growing international finance center with a vision of developing to the same stature as New York, London, and Hong Kong. Since it opened in September 2004, the DIFC has attracted high caliber firms from around the world. These firms include Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Barclays Capital, Credit Suisse, and Deutsche Bank, which all operate within a 110 acre free zone. Zohara Barth described the free zone concept as a “one stop shop for immigration and a good investment for franchises and companies.”
The students visited Dubai Aluminum, the world’s largest modern aluminum smelter. DUBAL is known for providing the highest purity aluminum, particularly given their current position of having the lowest operating costs in the world. Annually, DUBAL produces about one million tons of finished products for 300 customers in 48 countries. Finished products include foundry alloy for the automotive industry, extrusion billet for construction and high purity aluminum for the electronics and aerospace industries. Some 22% of its total workforce are UAE nationals. DUBAL is wholly owned by the government of Dubai. DUBAL is currently ranked as the 7th largest global producer in the industry with production capacity of 945,000 tons per annum. (As of 2008)
The UAE’s strategic geographic location, in the center of the trade routes from the far-east and the west, makes it a prime port for the shipping industry. The tour of DP World’s Jebel Ali Port was impressive as the port is part of the Jebel Ali Free Zone (Jafza). DP World is one of the largest marine terminal operators in the world with 30,000 employees, 49 terminals across 31 countries. DP World’s flagship facility is in Dubai and it is ranked among the top ten container ports worldwide. David Bigelow said that “the port personally mesmerized him due to his love for boats and sailing.”