x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Leisure tourism: a growth engine for Abu Dhabi

The emirate, and everyone who lives here, is already benefitting from the influx of visitors

The many, diverse and ever-expanding attractions of Abu Dhabi are no secret to the people who live in the emirate. Now, it seems, the rest of the world is catching on. As The National reported yesterday, the emirate is experiencing a boom in leisure tourism, with those who came for pleasure, rather than business purposes, last year accounting for 71 per cent of all visitors. That is up from 40 per cent in 2011.

The statistics, taken from the Abu Dhabi Destination Visitor Survey, are worth analysing. They show significant growth on top of business tourism, which accounted for 12 per cent of guests last year, compared to 60 per cent three years ago. Other data from the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi, for the second quarter of 2013, confirms large increases in the number of hotels and hotel rooms, occupancy rates, the number of guests and the average duration of hotel stays. And those figures don’t account for the many visitors who choose to stay with family and friends.

The fact that more and more people – from elsewhere in the UAE, across the region and the world – are choosing to spend their holidays in Abu Dhabi is good news. The impact is obvious: tourists bring money to spend on accommodation, attractions such as Ferrari World, big events including the Al Ain Air Show and the Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, concerts from the likes of the Rolling Stones and Justin Timberlake, and shopping for luxury brands. The opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi next year – the first of three world-class museums planned for Saadiyat Island – will mark a further new beginning, launching the emirate as a significant destination for cultural tourism.

Moreover, it has been shown that an increase in tourism numbers leads to a “virtuous circle”, where more visitors create more demand for services and amenities, and hence more tourists and more demand. That certainly seems to be the case in Abu Dhabi – and the ultimate winners in this cycle are the people who live in the emirate.

Tourism also creates jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurs, and it helps improve the city’s amenities, bringing more investment in infrastructure, including better public transport, more hotels, more malls and more beaches. Visitors may get to enjoy all this for a few days, but residents reap these benefits all year round.