„One of my most frequent destinations for projects over the last 25 years has been the United Arab Emirates. I am delighted that we are dedicating a special issue to the region as part of the 50th UAE birthday.” Kai Böcking in conversation with Sylvie Konzack
Kai Böcking has been working in the United Arab Emirates for many years. On the occasion of “50 years UAE”, Bleisure Traveller is planning a special German-English edition together with Discover Middleeast (Discover ME) and Business Traveller Germany at the end of 2021. In the interview, he talks about his special relationship with the seven emirates on the Gulf.
Kai, you have been in the UAE very often for a long time, and since Corona, interestingly enough, even more. What connects you with the Emirates?
I was in Dubai for the first time in the 1990s for a travel programme. At that time, the “New Dubai” didn’t even exist. The last building on Sheikh Zayed Road on the way to Abu Dhabi was the Hardrock Café. It was the time of awakening in the UAE, to make the world take notice. I thought the vision was a bit crazy at the time, to be honest, and I never thought it would all come true.
How have you experienced the changes in the Emirates over the years? What does the UAE’s 50th birthday mean to you?
I had made the first TV documentary about the Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi in 2004. After that, I founded a local company in Dubai with my production company in Germany and a local partner. Until 2010, we covered many big construction projects in the region – whether it was the construction of Yas Islands with a race track and Ferrari World or the Burj Khalifa and the Atlantis Hotel and many others. It was the craziest time in the UAE. Each emirate wanted to outdo the other. Not even the economic crisis of 2008 could stop the Emirates’ visions. That impressed me.
After the end of the cooperation with our local partner, there was a break of a few years before we organised the TV show “Deutschland sucht den Superstar” locally in 2018. Since then, I have been active again with a new company in the UAE.
Right now, we are producing a four-hour documentary for the channel VOX around the Emirates’ 50th birthday. A mega-job that is close to my personal heart. A journey through time with many highlights from this incredible success story.
We are also planning a special edition of Bleisure Traveller to celebrate the 50th anniversary. How would you describe the idea behind it?
The Emirates are one of the world’s main locations for entrepreneurs from all over the world, for expats, start-ups and soldiers of fortune. This is where people start up, grow, even fail, and where dreams come true. In our special issue of Bleisure Traveller, we put the spotlight on the people behind all these stories and milestones – the people from the UAE or those who have gone to the UAE. We feature them in large-format interviews and portraits, in reportages in extraordinary places. We also look at the new hotel giants and news spots for Business, Bleisure, Remote Work. For me, this is in a way a look back into the future, where the people behind it get the big stage. I am pleased to also have Discover Me on board as a partner for this as a German-language culture and business magazine in the Middle East and Business Traveller in Germany.
The Expo in Dubai started on 1 October 2021. What connects you with the World Expo??
I think it’s wonderful that the Expo is taking place. The world can come together here again after the pandemic year 2020, which was so drastic. A superlative event. I look forward to many more projects in the United Arab Emirates.
Sylvie Konzack …
has not been to the Emirates as often as Kai Böcking, but understands the fascination well. The possibilities are great, the contrasts too, and so are the stories that everyone brings with them from all over the world. She is looking forward to the special coffee-table style edition, in which people and their stories rather than buildings and companies play the main role.
Photos: © Photo Sandra Steh, Onepager: Bleisure Traveller