x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

More holidaymakers head to Abu Dhabi

Hotels in Abu Dhabi report sharp rises in the number of holidaymakers staying in the capital.

Abu Dhabi tourism authorities wants an equal mix of business and leisure visitors within the next few years. Fatima Al Mazouqi / The National
Abu Dhabi tourism authorities wants an equal mix of business and leisure visitors within the next few years. Fatima Al Mazouqi / The National

Hotels in Abu Dhabi are reporting sharp increases in the number of holidaymakers staying in the capital, as the tourism industry strives to increase the mix of business and leisure travellers.

"We have more than doubled the leisure guests compared to last year," said Arshad Hussain, the director of sales and marketing at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr hotel in Abu Dhabi. "This was achieved by targeting European and GCC markets."

The aim is to have equal proportions of business and leisure visitors within the next few years, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) says. However, business travellers still account for 75 per cent of all hotel guests in the emirate.

"Current knowledge indicates a 75-25 split [business and leisure] among hotel and hotel apartment guests and a 60-40 split among the overall visitor population," said Lawrence Franklin, the director of strategy and policy at ADTA.

"The greater proportion of leisure among overall visitors is accounted for by those who are visiting friends and relatives."

Attractions such as the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort, Ferrari World theme park, Yas Marina Circuit and the golf courses on Yas Island and Saadiyat Island are already playing significant roles in boosting the number of leisure visitors.

Meanwhile, infrastructure projects, conferences and exhibitions are continuing to fuel demand from business travellers.

In total, Abu Dhabi last year attracted 1.81 million guests, up from 1.54 million in 2009. This year, the emirate is hoping to welcome 2 million guests.

Attractions under development, including Saadiyat Beach and the cultural district on Saadiyat Island, as well as events such as the Volvo Ocean Race, which will stop over in the capital from January 1, are expected to entice an increasing number of tourists to Abu Dhabi, ADTA said.

Al Ain is also likely to attract more visitors following its recent designation as a Unesco world heritage site.

Still, Abu Dhabi has a long way to go before becoming a fully fledged tourism destination.

"There are some great plans under development, but it will take three to five years to fully evolve," Mr Hussain said.

Cheaper hotel rooms, along with growth and marketing efforts on the part of Etihad Airways, are helping to attract more tourists, hoteliers say.

"A number of major hotels are anticipated for delivery in the second half of 2011, which will put additional downward pressure on average daily rates and hotel occupancy rates," the property consultancy Jones Lang LaSalle said. "Year to date April 2011, average room rates fell 20 per cent compared to the same period in 2010."

Moritz Klein, the general manager of the Beach Rotana hotel in the capital, has noted a greater influx of tourists. "In our hotel, the number of leisure guests staying with us has increased by 14.5 per cent compared to last year," he said.

"The tourism segment is important for Abu Dhabi as it fills gaps during the non-corporate season, meaning in the summer months and during the Christmas period, which are traditionally very strong periods for holiday travel, hence an ideal match.

Abu Dhabi has always enjoyed leisure business, however due to the very strong corporate demand in 2008 and early 2009, it slowed down a little.

"International leisure packages are offered in conjunction with tour operators in the UK, the German-speaking market, the Russian market, China, India and of course the GCC."

rbundhun@thenational.ae