Invitation to a professional development event in Dubai

Please join us at Dubai Design Week 2018 for a panel discussion on:

Museum Design: Beyond the White Cube

Emily Hall, Director, Barker Langham
Christopher Lee, Co-founder & Principal, Serie Architects
Jason Shatilla, Creative Director, GSM Project
Moderated by Annette Welkamp, Director, Culture Counsel

when:   Tuesday, 13th November 2018, 5.00 to 6.00pm
where: Atrium, Building 4, Dubai Design District (d3)
rsvp:      Not required

The arts and heritage sector in Dubai is undergoing a fundamental push forward at the moment. There are a number of museums due to open in the next twelve months, each with specific and varied ambitions, target audiences and stories to tell. All will therefore require finely calibrated design strategies to generate singular creative outcomes.

This panel session brings together designers and thinkers related to some of these projects to explore the unique context of museum design and some of the individual solutions created for Dubai.

Organised by Culture Counsel in conjunction with Dubai Design Week 2018

Cultural Venue Customer Service: Thinking About Opening Hours

15th September 2018


There was a time when most cultural venues operated to very similar strict and fixed times; often to schedules that suited the staff rather than the visitors. In Europe, hours from 10 in the morning to 5 in the evening were common, and at least one day of the weekend they were closed. In the Gulf, a similar pattern prevailed with starts of 7 or 8 in the morning, finishing around 2 in the afternoon. Fridays definitely saw the doors closed, and oftentimes Saturdays as well.

Increasing demand from the public to access culture and heritage venues at times that suit them, rather than vice versa, is forcing institutions to re-think their opening hours’ strategies. After all, in Dubai for example, there are always plenty of other places to spend one’s free time. The Dubai Mall is open until midnight each night, and Global Village till 1 in the morning on Thursdays and Fridays.

Despite all of the work and energy that is committed to developing, presenting and operating an attractive venue, more consideration needs to be given to possible obstacles that might stop visitors from coming at all. Matching opening hours to our targeted visitors’ possible visiting hours should be a priority.

In thinking about how to deliver great customer service to visitors, an institution needs to consider the vast number of decisions that a person makes before they even arrive at the front door. If this door isn’t open at a time that is convenient to them, they are very unlikely to bother, no matter how much effort has gone into developing and producing a great experience for them. 


Since most culture and heritage organisations identify specific target audiences in their strategic plans, and develop their programmes and communications strategies accordingly, it is important to decide on opening hours in light of these strategies. Time and testing will allow for each institution to work out what suits them best, but some considerations might include the following.*

For schools

-          their visits are likely to be between 1 hour after the school day starts until around 1 hour before it ends, to give classes time to travel to and from school;

-          some venues limit school groups to mornings only, which enables greater freedom for specific programming, without these large (often animated) groups having to be concerned about disturbing other visitors who want quieter, more contemplative experiences.

For daytime workers

-          many venues schedule late night openings to capture this group after they finish work;

-          further services, such as meals and entertainment are really worthwhile, especially  programmes that encourage socializing. (Temporary exhibitions and performances provide perfect springboards to develop such programmes);

-          especially those working Sundays to Thursdays, the weekend is a great time for a culture or heritage activity, yet many venues still close on a Friday perhaps in respect of cultural traditions, and some on a Saturday as well. When almost everything else in the region is open all weekend, the industry is cheating itself of a huge potential audience;

-          innovative evening programmes can encourage teenage and young adult audiences;

-          the days of the week chosen for late night openings vary, with some venues opting for early and mid-week, on the assumption that the targeted group have other weekend plans.

For retirees

-          visit times are generally quite flexible, although the thought of facing large classes of children during school hours results in some in this group to aim for after-school hours, when everything starts to become a little quieter;

-          day-time outings are often preferred, in order to avoid crowds, and busy traffic on the way home.

For tourists

-          this group is harder to gauge, given their diversity;

-          some museums in Dubai report that 8am openings (and even earlier) are often requested by tourists, especially those who are only here for a brief time and from the east of us (having
jet lag results in them being wide awake much earlier than the locals);

-          who try to fill as much into their day as possible, value is placed on extended opening times. Furthermore let’s not forget the appeal of an air-conditioned environment for our busy guests, and the chance to enjoy a sit-down and some locally inspired refreshments. Remember: new opening times bring with them new programming opportunities;

-          many regional visitors travel on the weekend, so being open on Fridays and Saturdays is vital;

-          business tourists in particular value late night openings, where cultural venues provide
ideal chances for independent relaxation after a long day at the trade fair, conference or
in meetings;

-          tourism operators and regulators are a great source of informed knowledge about what suits which group, so knock on their door to find out more.

For families

-          carers of preschoolers really value early-morning visits, which is a time of the day when the children are wide awake and most alert;

-          weekends remain the most popular for family-oriented activities.

For the business sector

-          after-work functions at interesting venues, such as culture and heritage institutions, are appealing to the corporate sector (receptions, exclusive tours, special access to new exhibitions and corporate dinners);

-          similarly, unusual day-time meeting and seminar facilities can be inspirational. Imagine a day-long meeting that has an exclusive tour in the middle, and tailored programmes to encourage creative thinking. Surely this can generate some income to compensate for staff wages for those longer hours.


Institutions of course need to balance the needs of their audiences with their own. Longer opening hours place demands on resources such as staff and utilities, each with associated costs. Further to this is the increased wear and tear on the site, and on still ensuring that maintenance, display changeovers and cleaning can happen. The question then will be one of weighing up these costs with the potential of increased visitation, and for enabling greater access to a broader cross-section of the community.

Importantly, it’s not just the times the doors are opening that impact visitation. As suggested above, matching the programme offering to each audience and their anticipated visiting times will be key to making such tailoring really successful. But this just suggests more opportunities for engagement.

Calculating the perfect opening hours schedule requires experimentation along with testing and evaluation, since each venue operates in a specific location, faces particular combinations of competitors vying for the attention of potential visitors, and delivers distinct experiences.


Checking out when your competitors are open is also beneficial to planning your ideal opening hours’ strategy. To save you time, we have surveyed 81 of the main institutions in the Gulf. See below.

As a sidebar to this survey, for many of these venues it was relatively straightforward to identify when they were open, but for some on the list and a number of those that are not on it, it took a while. Which begs the question: do they really want visitors?

 ·         This introduction to thinking strategically about opening hours at cultural venues in the Gulf region is inspired by having been both guest and museum staffer for many years. This direct experience has been supplemented by tracking industry trends and informed discussions.

Annette Welkamp
Director, Culture Counsel

Culture Counsel has established a collaborative partnership with The Adams Consultancy to offer services and support for culture, heritage, art and museum destinations in the areas of customer and visitor services and events training. Contact us for more information.

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Culture Counsel and The Adams Consultancy Collaboration Announcement

In working together, we bring to the culture, heritage, art and museum community a wealth of cultural and organisational skills gained in working throughout the Middle East, Europe and Australasia.

We believe that any cultural experience can be improved by understanding the role that customer service and event management plays. Our vision relates not just to front-of-house staff and their interactions with visitors, but rather it is a whole-of-organisation attitude to interacting with others. This includes inter-departmental interactions, as well as those with external parties, such as visitors, artists, partners, suppliers, sponsors, patrons, government, the media and others.

Ensuring that high quality cultural experiences are consistently delivered to audiences is vital and ensuring best practice customer service and event management can assist in delivering and retaining these internal and external audiences.

We work with organisations to create a unified customer service and event management systems that reflect individual brands and messages. A key aim is to ensure that all participants understand their personal value as a marketing and branding tool, and their roles in delivering it.

Khaleej CHAMPs - a new LinkedIn group established by Culture Counsel

The Khaleej CHAMPs group is dedicated to bringing together culture, heritage, art and museum professionals who work, or are otherwise professionally engaged, in these sectors in the Arabian Gulf region. We welcome these professionals to discuss issues, successes, research, questions, professional events, RFPs, and job opportunities.

Please check us out on

Imagining the Museum of the Future in Dubai

The presentation last night by Dr. Noah Raford, Chief Operating Officer and Futurist-in-Chief of the Dubai Future Foundation was exciting, dynamic and took the audience on a wild ride.

Our guests from the Dubai museum community were challenged to imagine what the next 20 years will look like.

Culture Counsel is grateful to Dr. Noah and the team of the Museum of the Future and the Dubai Future Foundation for delivering a great inaugural event for the UAE Museum Network. We look forward to presenting more events in the near future.

If you wish to be kept up to date on these events, please send your contact details to

Invitation to a professional development event in Dubai

Please join us for a presentation by

Dr. Noah Raford
Chief Operating Officer, Futurist-in-Chief
Dubai Future Foundation

who will introduce
The Museum of the Future

organised by
Culture Counsel
Tuessday 17th April 2018 6pm to 6.20 pm - Welcome registration, 6.30 to 7.30pm - Dr. Noah's presentation
Emirates Towers (room to be confirmed, dependent upon numbers)
for whom
those working int the UAE museum, art, culture and heritage sector. You are welcome to invite colleagues, but please note that this is an industry event and not for the public
because it is time that all of those working in and with the sector in the UAE got to know each other and our new museums better
required to please note that places are limited so book early

The Museum of the Future is a unique incubator for futuristic innovations and design, currently under construction in Dubai, UAE.  Opening in 2019, the Museum will become the world’s largest and most exciting way to discover tomorrow’s trends and opportunities.