While its reputable culture enchants global travellers, Abu Dhabi works meticulously behind the scenes to augment its remarkable tourism offering further. Aleksandra Wood writes.
What a prolific year 2018 was for the capital of the UAE. The lucrative emirate racked up a number of significant achievements last year, all of which are gaining momentum in 2019.
Abu Dhabi made headlines in late February, when its Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT Abu Dhabi) released an official statement announcing that the emirate welcomed more than 10 million international visitors in 2018. The Authority posted figures showing astounding growth over the last three years, largely owed to a host of leading events, enhancements to all of its specialised tourism segments and the development of its cultural assets.
“We are incredibly pleased to see these positive metrics, as year-on-year we have exceeded the already ambitious targets set for Abu Dhabi’s growth,” chairman, DCT Abu Dhabi, HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak disclosed in an official statement. “With the emirate’s natural beauty as a stepping off point, Abu Dhabi has steadily enhanced its touristic and cultural proposition. The soaring visitor figures we have seen are evidence of the increase in global appeal of our emirate.”
Key markets to Abu Dhabi, inclusive of India, the US and China, all posted double-digit growth in hotel guests in 2018, thus fueling the surge in visitor arrivals. And paying close attention to the touristic influx is Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche. The property’s director of operations, Wesam Khouran, exclusively revealed to TTG: “The hotel’s key markets follow the trends of DCT Abu Dhabi. Our main markets are the UK, Germany and France in Europe; India; Australia; China; the CIS; and the GCC.
“These continue to be the focus for 2019,” he said, adding: “The support of DCT Abu Dhabi driving the emirate as a destination and raising awareness to these key markets has a big impact on the hotel industry.”
‘Support’ is somewhat of an understatement when it comes to the efforts of Abu Dhabi’s leading tourism body, with ground-breaking launches such as the multi-billion-dollar development programme, Ghadan 21, set to catapult the emirate’s reputation among world-leading touristic destinations.
Approved by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and Chairman of the Executive Council of Abu Dhabi, HH Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Ghadan 21 will see approximately $13.6 billion invested from 2019 to 2021 in four strategic pillars: Economic, Knowledge, Livability and Social. Initiatives under the programme prioritise Abu Dhabi’s citizens, residents, business owners and investors.
Another major play on behalf of Abu Dhabi’s government was the declaration of 2019 as the ‘Year of Tolerance’, whereby the UAE capital will be highlighted as a destination of acceptance through its legislative and policy goals.
Kicking off the initiative was Pope Francis’ visit to the emirate in February, followed by the Special Olympics World Games held last month – a first for the region. Construction of the UAE’s first traditional Hindu temple is already underway in Abu Dhabi, ahead of its projected opening in 2020.
“The start of 2019 has been positive, setting a promising tone to the year,” Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche’s Khouran elucidated. “We are working continuously to adjust our strategies to the changes in the market and support DCT Abu Dhabi and its promotions to complement our product offering.”
Abu Dhabi does not solely rest on its historically appealing profile – the capital means business. The MICE sector has seen vast leaps forward in the last years, owed to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC). At a recent press conference, the MICE entity announced that the value of its direct and indirect impact on the emirate’s economy in 2018 registered an impressive $928.4 million. ADNEC’s strong 2018 results followed a 14 per cent growth in the number of events hosted by Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre and Al Ain Convention Centre, which collectively achieved a record 502 events in 2018.
Chief commercial officer, ADNEC, Humaid Matar Al Dhaheri declared: “Over the years, ADNEC has significantly increased its market share within the region’s fast-growing event industry, which reflected positively on the performance of diverse economic and knowledge-based sectors, and provided a fresh impetus for trade and investment in the emirate.”
Despite its unfaltering dedication to becoming a world-class touristic destination, Abu Dhabi has never once compromised the very foundation of its success – its rich culture.
Khouran opined: “What is so unique about the emirate is its strong hold of its cultural values and its continuous effort to preserve that. Its key attractions include the Grand Mosque, Heritage Village and Qasr Al Hosn – all of which are all about preserving Emirati heritage.”
According to data released by DCT Abu Dhabi, the UAE capital’s cultural assets attracted more than 2.7 million travellers.
“Qasr Al Hosn, the oldest and most significant building in Abu Dhabi holding the city’s first permanent structure, has re-opened to the public after years of renovation, and just recently, the government has announced that a part of the Presidential Palace will open its doors,” Khouran concluded.
Meanwhile, commenting on the capital’s commitment to heritage, general manager, Tilal Liwa Hotel, Ahmed Margoushy boldly stated: “Abu Dhabi is very much focused on preserving its own culture, despite the very fast paced technological breakthroughs that it has been involved in.
“We are looking forward to keeping our standards high and our services to nothing but excellent, as well as meeting the business requirements of the owner and our employees,” he concluded.
Meeting well-deserved success with a graceful yet centered tourism strategy, the ‘Year of Tolerance’ is forecasted to be a bountiful year indeed.