Placido Domingo enthralls all at Dubai Opera

Iconic Dubai Opera will drive cultural tourism and reap economic dividends for the city

Emaar Properties has placed Dubai centre stage in the fast-growing global arts industry with the pre-opening of its premier cultural destination, the multi-format Dubai Opera in Downtown Dubai, which hosted a sold-out concert by legendary Spanish tenor Placido Domingo on August 31.

Mohamed Alabbar, Chairman of Emaar Properties, said that Emaar has invested Dh1.2 billion (about US$330 million) to develop Dubai Opera, which will bring rich cultural and economic dividends to the city. Dubai Opera will mark its grand inauguration later this year with many new fascinating attractions including a specially commissioned public realm art and several lifestyle choices.

Dubai Opera interior

“Great performing art venues are cultural catalysts,” said Alabbar. “They increase the sense of collective identity, connect people to build social capital, strengthen the values of diversity and tolerance, encourage members to participate in the arts, and promote neighbourhood cultural diversity.

The iconic Dubai Opera complements the Dubai Tourism Vision to welcome over 20 million annual visitors by the turn of the decade, and supports the cultural ambitions of Expo 2020 Dubai, which is expected to host over 25 million visitors. It also fulfils the central pillar of the Dubai Plan 2021 to build a city of happy, creative and empowered people by providing rich cultural experiences,” Alabbar added.

With Dubai fast becoming a global arts hub with a remarkable increase in the number of art galleries and arts events, Dubai Opera will catalyse the growth of the creative industries in the city, said Alabbar.

Dubai Opera interior

Huge cultural and economic dividends

Alabbar says Dubai Opera is similarly creating a vibrant growth engine for the Dubai economy. A part of the US$20 billion Downtown Dubai mega-development, which is already the world’s most-visited by welcoming an annual average 80 million visitors, Dubai Opera’s impact is defined by two dividends: Cultural and Economic.


Typically, the economic value of Dubai Opera will come from four channels, explained Alabbar. “The first channel is revenues from the performances and from F&B and other retail at the precinct; and the second are revenues from tourism – resulting from visitors travelling into Dubai to watch the shows.”

Aviation, hospitality and retail outside the venue comprise the third revenue stream; while the fourth is the local cultural ecosystem of local production houses and support agencies that create thousands of new jobs for creative professionals.

Legends such as Placido Domingo serve as magnets for cultural tourists with fans travelling wherever he goes. Cultural tourism is today one of the fastest-growing areas of global tourism. It is estimated that cultural or heritage activity is the sole purpose of nearly one in five European tourists, while culture forms a key feature of the trip of 80 per cent of US travelers.

Creative industries as growth catalyst

Today, creative industries are seen as powerful growth drivers for economies the world over. Large-scale cultural productions account for 4.5 percent of Europe’s GDP and 8 per cent of its employment.

A 2015 report by the Bureau of Economic Analysis states that creative industries in the US contribute US$698 billion to the national economy and provide jobs to more than 4.7 million people. In the UK, the creative scene that includes film, television and music is estimated to be worth US$116.7 billion per year in terms of contribution to the national economy.

At the micro level, individual creative enterprises have recorded invaluable economic impact. A report by Deloitte states that the Sydney Opera House contributes US$775 million to the nation’s economy every year, and has generated 8,439 full-time jobs. The study says that it has a cultural and iconic value of US$4.6 billion, with over 1.4 million annual visitors with nearly 2,000 performances.

Many cities today regard cultural policy as economic policy. For example, the Pennsylvania Cultural Data Project, analysing the impact of the cultural sector of Philadelphia, identifies that arts, culture and creativity are an economic engine generating US$3.3 billion in jobs, household income and tax revenue.