New tourism authority to drive growth

The Saadiyat Beach Golf Course... 2011 was a stellar year for the emirate.

ABU DHABI has set up a new body to drive its tourism ambitions and further foster the emirate’s cultural heritage.

Called the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (ADCTA), it replaces the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) and the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (Adach).

Its objective will be to preserve, protect and manage the emirate’s cultural heritage and leverage it as the core driver of the emirate’s tourism development and promotion.

The new ADCTA, under the chairmanship of Sheikh Sultan bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, held its first board meeting last month.

Mubarak Al Muhairi has also been named director general of the new authority.  He takes charge at the new post after seven years at ADTA.

“In Mubarak Al Muhairi, the ADCTA has a proven leader who sets the tone of an organisation by example and has a wealth of experience in both the tourism and culture sectors,” said Sheikh Sultan.

The ADCTA will regulate the tourism sector and develop policies overseeing hotels, exhibitions, and other tourism facilities. The authority will also organise conferences and festivals.

At the meeting the board also authorised an audit of the assets and facilities of the former ADTA and Adach ahead of the implementation of an integration action plan.

“We are looking to deliver a seamless transition into a unified body that will bring additional synergy to the delivery of enhanced product and services across a number of segments,” said Sheikh Sultan.

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi recorded its most successful year ever in terms of hotel guest arrivals with some 2,111,611 people staying in the emirate’s hotels and hotel apartments – beating its 2011 stretch target of two million by 6.5 per cent or over 100,000 guests.

Annual growth was recorded across a number of key metrics including: guest nights, which were up 22 per cent to 6.3 million; occupancy levels which rose seven per cent to 69 per cent; revenue, which rose three per cent to Dh4.375 billion ($1.2 billion) and length of stay which expanded five per cent to 2.97 nights. Room revenue increased by two per cent to Dh2.3 billion ($631 million), though the average room rate slipped by 14 per cent to Dh490 ($133), while food and beverage revenue increased by six per cent to Dh1.605 billion ($434.7 million).

Sheikh Sultan added: “This is a highly encouraging result in a year which has seen substantial additions to our hotel and resort inventory, including several five-star beach properties opening up Saadiyat Island to guests.”

“There is a clear correlation between this increase, our opening of offices in Russia and the US, our heightened focus on the Asian markets, a vibrant calendar of world-class events, increased air access with the arrival into Abu Dhabi of new carriers and the expansion of Etihad Airways’ network and a substantial increase in cross-network marketing undertaken by the arrival of major new hospitality brands.

“It leaves us well placed to build for 2012 for which we had initially target 2.3 million but, in conjunction with stakeholders, will now reassess to see if this too, can be stretched.”

December 2011 delivered a bumper return for Abu Dhabi with some 207,723 guests checking into the emirate’s hotels – a 26 per cent rise on December 2010 and the highest achieving month of the year.

Domestic tourism accounted for 39 per cent of overall 2011 arrivals with the GCC, including the UAE making up 45 per cent of hotel guests. Non-GCC Arab countries accounted for 11 per cent, Asia 14 per cent and Europe 18 per cent.

“Within the GCC, Saudi Arabia performed particularly well for us with guest numbers climbing by 58 per cent to 60,991 making the Kingdom our sixth largest international source market,” said Al Muhairi. “Kuwait has also demonstrated huge potential with numbers from the state increasing by 36 per cent to 15,898, Qatar increasing by 11 per cent to 22,898 and Oman growing by 10 per cent to 25,088.

Europe’s growth rate was primarily influenced by the UK, which remains Abu Dhabi’s biggest international source market accounting for 139,319 – an increase of 18 per cent; Germany, from where arrivals rose 25 per cent to 68,077; France, from where the market grew 15 per cent to 42,682 and Italy, which saw a 13 per cent growth to 31,769.

“These results should be viewed as highly encouraging when viewed against a background of world economic uncertainties which are impacting many destinations,” said Al Muhairi.

“We are also now working ever more closely with stakeholders to spur creative packaging of our products, including our events and to realize the potential held out by the Unesco Heritage site listing of attractions in Al Ain,” he added.