Return to GVPedia

Wednesday 27 May 2015



The underlying message of the Tourism Development & InvestmentCompany’s (TDIC) mission – indeed, its very existence – highlights asimple and fundamental premise of modern-day nation building: Theaccumulation of a country’s wealth, especially accruing from its naturalresources, should be used to diversify its socio-economic base. TDICepitomises this ethos by spearheading infrastructure projects that arebased on environmental sustainability and stewardship – total respect forthe local environment and culture.




Tourism Development & Investment Company Abu Dhabi UAE

Branding a Nation Sustainably

For nation-states, regions and cities, destination branding is more relevant than ever. Vital forattracting allies, investment and visitors, those that fail to brand effectively get left behind. With the effective fine tuning of a strong ramified brand, Abu Dhabi has accepted this rationale. Lee Tabler,CEO, TDIC explains, “In line with Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority’s strategy of delivering managed growth,we are adopting a leadership role in the arena of environmental preservation, for example. TDICis working on delivering a hospitality landscape underscored by managed growth, where changes will be gradual and measured.”


Strong place brands are important for four reasons

• Attracting business and foreign direct investment

• Attracting visitors

• Recruiting the best and the brightest

• Wielding political and economic influence


When it comes to TDIC, in existence since 2006, its success in the delivery of best practices can be “tangibly measured by the partnership with world class operators across a number of segments– culture, architecture, construction, leisure and hospitality.” Because of this, Tabler explains, “We have encouraged leading international brands to enter the Abu Dhabi market.” By creating and facilitating projects that add to the emirate’s unique positioning and reinforce a memorable tourist experience, TDICis participating in establishing an image based on positive national values and perceptions on which the emirate can rely when promoting sustainable socioeconomicd iversification, exports and services. In this sense, the destination becomes a valuable tool,conveying an emotional and intangible componentthat can affect investment decisions. Even thoughits shareholding is fully owned by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), TDIC’s ambition is to transform from“a relatively small scale player to a major organisation which plays a key role in the development of Abu Dhabi’s tourism infrastructure”.


Clearly, its relevance is becoming increasingly evident in the tourism sector in which TDIC is involved.With competing locations vying for global tourism spend, destinations offering similar high quality products are being pushed to devise that extra sales edge that makes destinations ‘stand out’ from the crowd.


So, what challenges does TDIC face in ensuring its operations serve the truest interests of its stakeholders and of Abu Dhabi? Tabler clarifies, “It is in ensuring that our stakeholder values are delivered across every segment of the developmental chain.This requires additional research and preparation time,exceptional human resources and partners whose operational and delivery rationale is in total synch with our own.” He adds, “TDIC is distinguished in that the company’s approach is not purely commercially driven. Though TDIC does have to stand on its own feet economically, is has responsibilities to the community of Abu Dhabi and to the emergence of the destination in terms of economic, cultural and socio-economic sustainability.”

A Place Brand

In this crowded arena, nations, regions or cities that lack the relevant brand equity will not be competitive in the long-run. This is why TDIC is tracking measurable ways in which its philosophy of best practices across every segment in which it operates is being translated across existing projects. Mr Tabler says, “Environmental sustainability is a key element of TDIC’s corporate ethos and is drilled very much into the company’s corporate DNA. This, of course, is in line with the overarching development principles of the Abu Dhabi Government as outlined in its Urban Plan 2030. TDIC has strict environmental guidelines for all its sub-contractors and development investors.


“The company has instigated numerous initiatives across a number of projects including its flagship Desert Islands multi-experiential destination and Saadiyat Island – the 27 square kilometre island which is just 500 metres offshore Abu Dhabi city. These initiatives include work on Sir Bani Yas Island – the largest of the Desert Islands – to expand and upgrade a bird sanctuary to ensure that the island remains the migratory home of hundreds of species. “Sir Bani Yas Island also hosts the Arabian Gulf’s first wind turbine, which is now producing electricity, and it is working with the Abu Dhabi future energy initiative, Masdar, to ensure Desert Islands utilises as much renewable energy as possible.


“On Saadiyat Island, TDIC has created an inter-tidal mangrove nursery in its Saadiyat Reserve district where it is cultivating 100,000 propagated mangrove seedlings to be transplanted. It is also propagating an additional 180,000 seedlings for transplantation during the island’s development. These schemes will enhance the ecological value of Saadiyat Reserve. TDIC has also restricted resort development on Saadiyat Beach to within 60 metres of dune lines so as to protect the breeding grounds of Hawksbill turtles. 





“Saadiyat will also have the UAE’s first Gary Player-designed golf course – the Saadiyat Beach Golf Course – and here again the company’s environmental credentials come to the fore. Mr. Player was selected for his reputation as an environmental guardian. He has delivered an ecologically-conscious, amphitheatre-style course which will be capable of hosting a major tournament in the future. It follows a class figure-of-eight configuration with over a third having views of the Saadiyat coastline, where dolphins are regularly spotted. Landscaping here utilizes native grasses and desert palms. Water management will be through a modern, computer-controlled irrigation system that allows for flexibility to ensure sound irrigation practices. TDIC intends to enroll this course in the Audubon International Awards certification scheme, which recognizes courses that protect the environment, conserve natural resources, provide wildlife habitats and are governed by high standards of environmental management.


“On the cultural side, our partners include the French Government for the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim Foundation for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. On architecture – we have made a huge difference – by commissioning the world’s best to design the cultural assets of Saadiyat Cultural District, which will be home to the world’s single largest concentration of premier cultural institutions. Lord Foster for the Sheikh Zayed National Museum, Frank Gehry for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Jean Nouvel for the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zaha Hadid for the district’s Performing Arts Centre and Tadao Ando for the Maritime Museum. Close by we expect to open the Saadiyat Beach Golf Course by the final quarter of 2009 – and another golf course master architect, Robert Trent Jones II has been commissioned for the design of a remarkable tidal course in the Saadiyat Reserve district. And we have partnered another major golf name – Troon – to run these facilities.


“Hospitality has been a hugely successful area for us with TDIC’s philosophy of partnering the best to deliver the best, attracting some of the world’s leading operators to Abu Dhabi. These include Westin Hotels & Resorts, Angsana, Anantara and St. Regis, which will operate a TDIC property on Saadiyat Beach. I believe our strategy has significantly raised the hospitality benchmark within Abu Dhabi and ensured greater awareness for the destination as a whole as these brands begin their tried and tested international cross marketing campaigns”, he concludes.

Lee Tabler - CEO


Lee Tabler, TDIC’s Chief Executive Officer, has more than 25 years international real estate development experience, 17 of them in senior management positions with technical and financial responsibilities throughout North America, Europe, Asia and the Middle East.


Having been a founding member and past chairman of the Middle East Council of the Urban Land Institute – the international non-profit research and educational organisation that caters to professionals in land use and real estate development – Lee Tabler is now chairman of the council’s planned Real Estate Education Centre. He is also a member of the International Council of Shopping Centres, the International Real Estate Investment Council, the US Real Estate Commission and the Asian Society in Hong Kong and New York.  


Lee Tabler holds a bachelors degree in architecture from the Southern California Institute of Architecture, US, a masters degree in urban and regional planning from the American School of Architecture in Fontainebleau, France and a masters degree in real estate finance from the American University in Washington DC, USA.