Destination Abu Dhabi

The culture-rich emirate of Abu Dhabi is ever-rising in popularity amongst all categories of travellers. Tatiana Tsierkezou discovers its secret to success as well as the latest trends.

Whether travellers are visiting on business or leisure, the capital of the UAE has it all: culture, F&B diversity, a brilliant MICE infrastructure, exciting leisure attractions, a safe and secure reputation, and seamless connectivity. And with all of these attributes ever-developing, the emirate is on its way to bigger and better things, especially with game-changing additions in the pipeline such as the Abu Dhabi Midfield Terminal and the much-anticipated opening of various cultural attractions such as the Abu Dhabi Louvre, the Guggenheim and much more to tempt an array of visitors.

In the meantime, how is Abu Dhabi maintaining its success whilst simultaneously striving to boost it? The answer to this question is: a united tourism front, which identifies the necessary measures that must be put in place to boost the industry. With Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) forever pushing its tourism sector to greater heights, ensuring that the emirate’s visibility is sky high on a global scale, the spotlight is on Abu Dhabi.

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Exclusively speaking to TTG about this was acting general manager, Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort, Yves Tarabout: “It is very important for us to actively support Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority’s initiatives to promote our city and emirate. Hotels, airlines and the authorities are working in strong partnership to put Abu Dhabi at the forefront of the region’s tourism destinations.”

Tarabout explained that because of the Authority’s dedication, the emirate has witnessed a steady increase of leisure travellers throughout 2015, both from new markets and the more traditional ones.

Also commenting on the success of 2015 was chief operating officer, One to One Hotels and Resorts, Philippe Harb: “We [have been witnessing] a healthy demand in Abu Dhabi this year. The number of guests in the city increased by 20 per cent compared to last year and the number of hotel guest nights increased by 11 per cent.”

“In the cycle we are in a great position of supply and demand perspective in Abu Dhabi, which favours the owners and operators,” Harb explained.

TRENDING IN THE EMIRATE

In order to stay ahead of the tourism game, industry entities must keep a keen eye on the latest trends, pointing them in the right direction and allowing them to capitalise on the specific details and factors that lure in tourists.

Speaking to TTG exclusively about what has been noticeably trending this year was director, Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, Dr. Margit Gabriele Muller: “I have seen an increasing trend towards cultural and historical highlights that underline the Emirati culture. The beauty of Emirati traditions and culture, including falconry, is what attracts travellers to Abu Dhabi. Visitors demand more and more special attractions that provide them with a different experience that they cannot usually find.”

Providing its visitors with an amalgamation of eco and wildlife tourism, the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital offers visitors unique tours that grant insight into the world of the symbolic falcon, the history of falconry as well as the life of falcons in modern times – a truly educational experience which celebrates the emirate’s heritage.

Echoing this sentiment was general manager, Courtyard by Marriott World Trade Center, Abu Dhabi, Richard Bleakley, who said: “The authentic experience is in high demand and this is something that the emirate should not underestimate or diminish in any manner.”

Also highlighting the fact that getting to know the real Abu Dhabi is high on a traveller’s list of priorities was director of business development, Park Rotana Abu Dhabi, Tamer Refaat: “Travellers seek out authenticity when travelling, and to them, experiencing and immersing [themselves] in aspects of the local culture is highly important.”

Refaat went on to highlight further tourism trends to TTG: “A major tourism trend we witnessed is the way the consumer is driving technological change. Consumers expect smooth access to the content they want, when they want it and across all platforms, placing particular importance on free WiFi connectivity. This digital customer is more informed and empowered than ever, often looking to online peer-to-peer reviews and to social media before making purchase decisions.”

According to Refaat, other trends include the expectation of very high standards of service quality; bespoke services granting a more personal touch; and the creation of tailor made experiences.

Looking to satisfy the inquisitive needs of young travellers is the brand new Zaya Nurai Island. The resort’s general manager, Nolie Omar, pointed out that since its opening, the development has witnessed a jump in the number of young travellers seeking exciting destinations with a focus on exploration and experiences.

“Most young travellers are looking for unique, thrilling experiences to take back as memories and that’s why we are organising daily activities at Zaya Nurai Island. This is important to keep our offer fresh and surprise our guests.”

Moving on to the vitally important F&B sector, which is steadily showing promise within Abu Dhabi, Omar informed TTG that guests are now far more conscious about the ‘carbon footprint’ of their food.

“When it comes to F&B, guests want to taste delicious dishes that are home-grown, organic and sustainable. So when they hear that the majority of our food is locally grown, they really appreciate it,” she shared.

GLIMPSE INTO THE FUTURE

Keeping these current trends in mind, the capital of the UAE is moulding and shaping its portfolio of offerings in a bid to further refine its tourism industry.

On a mission to discover what the future holds for this well-rounded emirate, TTG turned its attention to a number of travel professionals.

Questioned about how he anticipates the Abu Dhabi tourism scene to develop over the coming five years, general manager, Emirates Palace, Holger Schroth declared: “As part of the 2030 vision, the Abu Dhabi government has been very supportive. The incredible progress that we’ve all witnessed in Abu Dhabi over the past few years reflects the great vision of the leadership of the UAE and the people who believed in that vision and came to contribute to the growth of the country. Based on what we’ve seen so far, the next five years will be no different in terms of growth and the development of an open, efficient, effective and globally integrated business environment and tourism destination.”

Schroth highlighted that Emirates Palace will hugely benefit from the ever-growing destination awareness.

“With increasing global interest for the business, sporting, film, musical and exhibition opportunities in the city, Emirates Palace is set as the perfect venue to welcome new events and visitors to the city,” he stated.

Also eager to share his ideas on the coming years was director of sales and marketing, Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Khaled Al-Idrissi: “My prediction is that we will continue to see growth in the years to come at an average of five to seven percentage points but with more diversification from various feeder markets versus the traditional model of Germany, CIS and the UK.”

He added: “Hotels that do not diversify their feeder market portfolio will be caught off guard and will have a limited ability to respond to the changing market landscape.”

Meanwhile, Bleakley of Courtyard by Marriott World Trade Center, Abu Dhabi, informed that the opening of Abu Dhabi’s new Midfield Airport terminal in 2017 will boost the frequency of travellers to the emirate to 30 million passengers per year.

“[This] is set to have a hugely positive impact on the hospitality and tourism industry across the capital,” he enthused, adding that developments such as Saadiyat Cultural District are already helping to position Abu Dhabi as a global cultural and arts hub, with the Louvre (set to open in 2016) as well as Zayed National Musuem and Guggenheim drawing local, region and international visitors.

Concluding TTG’s mission to uncover industry predictions was group marketing manager, Danat Hotels & Resorts (an upscale division of National Corporation for Tourism & Hotels), Rima Rawass who said: “Over the next few years the capital will host different landmark developments that are tipped to attract visitors keen to have a cultural experience. The Abu Dhabi [tourism industry] is growing and fast moving, with new hotels, new malls opening and various events taking place.”

With the industry radiating positivity, the emirate of Abu Dhabi continues to be at the beck and call of any category of traveller, keeping ever-evolving wants and needs in mind.