Abu Dhabi aims to offer a distinct wealth of attractions
Abu Dhabi’s tourism road show made a stopover at Doha in September. After the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) kicked off the tour in Muscat, and then travelled to Kuwait before concluding with visits to Manama and Jeddah. The Edge caught up with Sultan Al Mansouri, Gulf Cooperation Council country manager, TCA Abu Dhabi, to understand how the tourism sector is faring in Abu Dhabi and what they offer to attract more travellers from Qatar.
Tell us about the outlook of the tourism sector in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
The outlook for the tourism sector in the GCC is robust. As we enter into the period between low and high seasons, looking at Abu Dhabi in particular, guest arrivals into the emirate, in the first six months of the year numbered more than 1.98 million, a rise of 17 percent over 2014.
These guests generated 5,728,765 guest nights in the emirate’s 163 hotels and hotel apartments, an increase of 11 percent on the previous year. Total revenue for hotel establishments recorded an eight percent increase to AED3.34 billion (QAR3.31 billion), room revenue increased by 11 percent, food and beverage (F&B) revenue increased by one percent.
The target for guest arrivals for this year is 3.9 million, which we are very confident of achieving, especially given that our highly impressive half-year figures show double-digit growth.
And coming into Q4 for 2015, Abu Dhabi’s highly anticipated events are expected to draw a large number of visitors from neighbouring GCC countries. Besides the celebratory activities for September’s Eid Al Adha, we have an array of culture and heritage events that will take place in October. Then in November, all eyes will be on the UAE capital during the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Furthermore, Abu Dhabi Art will captivate modern art lovers.
Since Meetings Incentives Conventions and Exhibitions is a major focus of tourism in the region, do you think it hampers the prospects of the sector when it comes to volume?
We launched a roadshow that toured GCC cities. This allowed us to promote not only our tourist offerings, but it also presented a wonderful opportunity for us to profile the excellent facilities available in Abu Dhabi to GCC businessmen and entrepreneurs.
Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau has revitalised the emirate’s business, specialised exhibitions and incentives tourism sector, which has seen remarkable growth over the past five years. More than 24 major international conferences and business meetings were held in Abu Dhabi in 2014, with some events hosting in excess of 5000 delegates.
What role do Qatari visitors play in the tourism sector of Abu Dhabi?
Tourists from the GCC are on the list of top 25 nationalities that frequently travel to Abu Dhabi, which has uniquely succeeded in preserving its authentic, traditional characteristics. Recent statistics indicate that Abu Dhabi’s hotels received 13,156 guests from Qatar during the first half of 2015, a number we are looking to increase. Guests from this country accounted for 26,861 guest nights this year to date, with the average length of stay 2.04 nights. Qatar sits in 20th position on the ‘leaderboard’ of overseas markets for Abu Dhabi, but we are working hard to attract more guests from here.
Do you foresee this volume growing in the coming years?
We are working hard to attract more travellers from Qatar, and TCA Abu Dhabi’s promotional road show in Doha is a step towards achieving that. So we are confident we will be able to encourage a wide variety of world-class attendees with the offerings in Abu Dhabi, with a view to increasing both guest arrivals and
Culture is an important aspect of tourism in the region. What are you doing to capitalise on that?
The cultural offerings in Abu Dhabi are many and varied – from the grandeur of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to Qasr Al Hosn and Heritage Village all the way to Al Jahili Fort in heritage heartland of Al Ain. In addition to these permanent and fixed attractions, we also make sure we celebrate and accentuate culture with other events. The Qasr Al Hosn event, for instance, is an annual event that attracts thousands of people to the emirate.
In October, for example, the seventh edition of Al Ain Reads Book Show will focus on local publishers and host preeminent Emirati writers, and the National Traditional Handicrafts Festival is also expected to attract host of visitors. November’s Abu Dhabi Art will captivate modern art enthusiasts as one of the region’s leading art events, and the return of the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival will be a visitor magnet with its interactive aspect that brings back to memory original arts and traditions in the vast area it occupies in Al Wathba region amid spectacular sand dunes. We also have an annual Abu Dhabi Classics music programme lasting eight months.
With Dubai being a big competitor for Abu Dhabi, how do you ensure shoring up volumes for Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi aims to offer a distinct wealth of attractions and events when compared to Dubai. The Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is a perfect case in point. We have also hosted the Red Bull Air Race, the Volvo Ocean Race stopover, as well as having the cultural focal points of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the delights of Al Ain, all very distinctive from Dubai.
With economic diversification an urgent need of the countries of the region, what role do you foresee tourism playing in the national economies?
Abu Dhabi has successfully established a unique economic model through developing a number of promising sectors identified by Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, among which tourism is a key pillar. As the offerings here go from strength to strength, we see tourism as a crucial piece of the economic welfare of the emirate for the future.