ABU DHABI // The popular Frommer's travel guidebooks rank Abu Dhabi among their 12 must-see destinations for 2010, pitching the emirate as an ideal holiday spot for those seeking "a more genuine, less artificial Emirati experience". The American guidebook puts Abu Dhabi in the same league as Hawaii, Santiago de Cuba, Salta Province in Argentina, Hanoi in Vietnam, Copenhagen in Denmark, Tunisia, the Scilly Isles off England, Mexico City, Melbourne, the Florida Panhandle beaches and Kerala.
"For travellers - especially business ones -  will be the year that defines whether Abu Dhabi will be a flash in the pan or the next serious entrant on the global stage," Frommer's said. David Lytle, the editorial director of frommers.com, said the publisher's UK-based editors made the case that Abu Dhabi was growing in popularity with British and European travellers and was a "smart alternative to Dubai".
Fiona Quinn, the commissioning editor of Frommer's UK, argued that Etihad flights were good value and visitors could expect "the usual excellent Arabic hospitality". While Abu Dhabi "can seem a little slow", the guidebook said, the emirate had beautiful beaches as well as more greenery and less traffic than its northeastern neighbour. "And the character is distinctly Emirati, preserving much of the conservative heritage," it added.
The list, which did not include rankings, is intended to represent a blend of emerging hot spots and underrated cities and locales expected to become "overrun by tourist crowds" in the near future, Mr Lytle said. The complimentary nod to the UAE from Frommer's - the market leader for guidebooks in the US - came weeks after another major travel publisher, Lonely Planet, included the country in its own list of 10 hotspots to see in 2010. Mr Lytle said Frommer's had compiled an end-of-the-year top-destinations list for the past five years.
"The process is driven by editorial opinion," he said, "meaning our global pool of editors and authors submit destinations for nominations, including brief arguments for why their submissions should make the final list." The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority has a target of 10 per cent growth in hotel guest arrivals for next year, even though there was no increase this year over 2008. There was, however, a 110 per cent increase in traffic to the authority's website, www.visitabudhabi.ae, during the first nine months of 2009 compared with same period last year, according to Mubarak al Muhairi, the director general of the tourism authority.
He said the authority expected Abu Dhabi tourism to grow by 15 per cent in 2011 and 2012. "Obviously, third-party recommendations of the level of Frommer's and Lonely Planet will assist us in achieving these goals," Mr al Muhairi said. "These reports are high-level testimonials that reach a very influential travel audience, and they give us a very high level of credibility as a tourist destination."