x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Capital stays popular with tourists

The nation's capital is on track to hit its tourism targets this year, even though the economic slowdown has cut into its European and business travel markets.

The nation's capital is on track to hit its tourism targets this year, even though the economic slowdown has cut into its European and business travel markets, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) said yesterday. The ADTA is aiming for about 1.5 million hotel guests this year, steady from last year. "The targets we have in place are based on a solid understanding of demand and supply fundamentals," said Lawrence Franklin, the director of strategy and policy at the authority.

Air Asia, the low-cost carrier that will begin flying between Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur in November, will open up new markets to the capital and the Formula One race that month - key parts of the authority's strategy to attract visitors, Mr Franklin said. But he said arrivals had "slowed from many of our inbound markets, including Europe". This reflected a general downwards trend in global tourism, he said, adding there had been strong domestic demand from UAE residents this year. The World Tourism Organisation forecasts a decline in international tourism of between 4 and 6 per cent this year.

The UK last year was Abu Dhabi's main tourism source market, accounting for 112,200 hotel guests, followed by India and then Germany. "Another feature of the slowdown has been lower lengths of stay, which has a significant impact on occupancy rates," said Mr Franklin. "Taking shorter business trips or breaks is a well-documented travel market response to periods of economic uncertainty." STR Global last week reported that both occupancy levels and average daily rates for Abu Dhabi's hotels declined last month compared with the same month last year, resulting in a 13.6 per cent decline in revenue per available room, a key industry measure.

Nevertheless, considering the fact that the summer is low season, the performance of Abu Dhabi's hotel industry remained strong compared with other world cities, the ADTA said. Abu Dhabi is looking for growth and intends to attract 2.3 million hotel guests a year by 2012. In May, the ADTA revised this figure down from its original forecast of 2.7 million, citing the impact of the global financial crisis.

Mr Franklin said the capital would achieve this through the continued expansion of its airline capacity, tapping new markets and expanding its attractions with additions such as the Ferrari World theme park, due to open next year. Some 3,000 additional hotels rooms are scheduled to open in the capital this year. Mr Franklin said the expansion of the capital's leisure tourism sector, "which up until now has been relatively small", was important to the emirate. Business tourism currently accounts for more than 80 per cent of Abu Dhabi's visitors.

"Building leisure tourism in tandem with the continued expansion of our business tourism market will deliver sustainable demand and longer lengths of stay." @Email:rbundhun@thenational.ae