Abu Dhabi tourism geared for all-round growth

Al Dhaheri ... focusing on growth

The UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi has surpassed its target for tourist arrivals in 2015 clocking 4.1 million visitors as against an expected 3.9 million by the end of a successful year for the tourism industry.

'Although no set figure has yet been disclosed for 2016, we will certainly be targeting an increase on a very successful 2015,' says Sultan Al Dhaheri, acting executive director, Tourism Sector, TCA Abu Dhabi.

'The source markets for tourists represented by TCA’s 11 overseas offices remain a priority, but we will be focusing especially on six markets in 2016: China, India, the UK, Germany, Australia and the GCC region.

'We are delighted our regional GCC tourism numbers are still healthy and strong, with domestic bookings from the UAE also strong. We also work closely with our colleagues at Etihad Airways and partners as we try to constantly identify opportunities linked to the opening of new routes. Etihad recently launched a new route to Morocco, and we will take a look at this as-yet-untapped market as the year progresses,' Al Dhaheri says in an interview with TTN.

On the focus areas of growth for Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector over the next five years, TCA Abu Dhabi’s plans for the next five years include leveraging large infrastructure developments such as the new cruise terminal at Zayed Port, the opening of the new Midfield Terminal at Abu Dhabi airport, the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum, and the launch of some stunning new hotels including a Fairmont hotel on the Corniche breakwater and a Hilton, a Jumeirah and a Rotana complex on Saadiyat Island.

'We will be promoting once again some world-class entertainment that we host, and also showcasing our credentials as a business destination of distinction,' he says, adding that golfing at Abu Dhabi’s many top-class courses, as well as increased business from the cruise sector will also boost growth considerably.

In addition to the upcoming three museums on Saadiyat Island and the recently opened Qasr Al Muwaiji museum in Al Ain, TCA Abu Dhabi will continue to focus on cultural development projects across the emirate, which has a 'multitude of projects that celebrate the UAE’s heritage and history.

TCA Abu Dhabi will also be focusing on entertainment offerings at Yas Island, which will soon have additional attractions at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the world’s first indoor theme park.

'We will also build on our successes with our many entertainment projects such as Abu Dhabi Classics, Abu Dhabi Summer Season, the Abu Dhabi Food Festival, the Al Ain Air Championship, the Abu Dhabi Festival and Abu Dhabi Art.

'While promoting golf in the emirate is a key priority, the cruise sector also will prove to be a major part of growth, as well as halal tourism and the Mice sectors,' he adds.

Last December, Abu Dhabi opened a new cruise terminal at Zayed Port. The state-of-the-art terminal will attract international cruise liners to home port at Abu Dhabi, making it their first destination stop within the region and allow passengers to enjoy a longer stay in the emirate.

Zayed Port is expected to witness a fivefold increase in the number of passengers and ships during the 2015/2016 season in comparison to the first cruise season of 2006-2007. Growth projections for the cruise tourism sector in the emirate anticipate more than 300,000 passengers by the 2019-2020 season.

MSC Cruises, the Switzerland-based global cruise line – number one in Europe, South America and South Africa – is the first cruise line to choose Abu Dhabi and the new terminal as its home port for the 2015/16 season.

'During the 2014/15 season, we welcomed 200,407 passengers from 94 calls by 14 ships. For the 2015/16 season, we expect 205,000 passengers from 112 calls by 16 ships and in 2016/17 season, we expect 220,000 passengers from 117 calls by 16 ships,' he concludes. 

By K S Sreekumar