Abu Dhabi offers tourists first-class attractions and facilities

 

These are dynamic times for the emirate’s tourism and culture sectors, as Abu Dhabi’s traditional portfolio of business travel and luxury vacations widens to include a whole new range of offerings. Sports, arts and entertainment are all now arriving centre stage for the emirate, as Abu Dhabi also makes its mark on the international cruise industry, while boosting its hotel collection and global interconnectivity.

Tourism and culture have been privileged with key positions in the emirate’s long-term development plans, being seen as ways to boost diversification in the economy and establish new jobs and investment opportunities. These developments are rolling out at a time of increased regional and international economic and political uncertainty. Local authorities are striving to carve out a readily identifiable niche in an increasingly crowded regional market. However, with a firm strategy already in place, the signs are that Abu Dhabi is making a strong impression in both the global travel industry and the international creative and cultural sector.

Leading Edge

Accounting for 86.7% of the total land area of the UAE, according to Statistics Centre - Abu Dhabi (SCAD), along with 700 km of its coastline and around 200 of its major and minor offshore islands, Abu Dhabi is also responsible for a majority share of the UAE’s income. This is largely derived from the emirate’s extensive oil and gas fields, which account for the major part of the UAE’s 98bn barrels of total proven oil reserves, according to the “BP Statistical Review of World Energy June 2016”. In just a few decades, this hydrocarbon wealth has translated into a high per capita income and rapid urban development.

In recent years the emirate has been pursuing a strategy of economic diversification, while also looking to maintain its heritage and values. Aware of the pitfalls of an over-dependence on hydrocarbons, Abu Dhabi launched the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 in 2008 with these goals in mind. The vision, complimented by the broader 2016 Abu Dhabi Plan, identified tourism as one of the main engines of future economic growth. It also emphasised the need for the sector to branch out from the capital. This meant developing the Al Dhafra Region, which includes two-thirds of the emirate’s territory, and Al Ain, Abu Dhabi’s second-biggest city, lying to the east of the capital on the border with Oman. Al DHAFRA: The Al Dhafra Region includes much of Abu Dhabi’s coastline, which is dotted with islands and islets, including Sir Bani Yas Island and Delma Island. It extends inland to Liwa, an arc of oases on the northern edge of the so-called Empty Quarter, or Rub Al Khali. In this, the largest sand dunes outside the Sahara can be found, while the oases themselves offer a glimpse into the emirate’s history and traditional culture, far removed from the skyscrapers and bustle of the capital.

Al Dhafra is also home to a string of annual festivals, such as the Tel Moreeb Festival in January, a key event for desert driving aficionados, and the Al Dhafra Camel Festival. In July Liwa hosts a date festival, while April sees the Al Dhafra Watersports Festival, an event which is drawing an increasingly international audience.

  Al Ain

Al Ain, which lies around a two-hour drive from the capital, meanwhile, offers both culture and history. One of the region’s oldest buildings, the Al Jahili Fort, built in 1891, is located in Al Ain. The fort hosts a permanent exhibition about Sir Wilfred Thesiger, a British explorer who was one of the first Westerners to cross the Rub Al Khali. His account of the journey, Arabian Sands, is widely considered an international classic.

The city also offers one of the last camel markets in the region, alongside the city zoo, which hosts some 4000 animals. Elsewhere in town, there is the National Museum and the Al Ain Palace Museum, with the latter located in the former home of the UAE’s founding president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Al Ain is overlooked by the mountain Jebel Hafeet, which rises to some 1240 metres. At its feet lies Wadi Adventure, a waterpark with the world’s largest artificial surf wave at 3.3 metres. Hili Fun City is Al Ain’s second theme park, and is the emirate’s oldest such facility. Al Ain is also home to the UAE’s first curated UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Al Ain Oasis. It is an environmental eye opener, showing visitors how the delicate balance of this green and shady area is maintained by a system of irrigation channels, known as aflaj (see analysis).

Capital City

Between the Al Ain and Al Dhafra regions lies the capital itself. Home to nearly 1.5m people in 2014, according to the latest available data from SCAD, Abu Dhabi City has grown exponentially over the past few decades. Habitation centred historically on the island of Abu Dhabi – which literally means “father of the gazelle” – a low-lying offshore feature settled by the Bani Yas tribe originally from Liwa. This island still forms the hub of the modern city, although it has since grown back onto the mainland, now linked via the Maqta, Sheikh Zayed and Mussafah bridges, and also onto other surrounding islands, such as Saadiyat and Al Reem. Recently, the population of these has expanded, thanks to the construction of Yas Island, the world’s second-largest artificial island.

Yas is home to the Yas Marina Circuit, which has hosted the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix since 2009. The island is also home to the world’s fastest rollercoaster at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, the Yas Waterworld water park and the region’s only true links golf course, the par-72 Yas Links Abu Dhabi. The city hosts a range of other golf courses as well, including Saadiyat Beach, Abu Dhabi City Golf Club and Abu Dhabi Golf Club, home to the annual Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, a European PGA Tour Event.

Saadiyat and Yas also have public beaches, as does the Corniche, an 8-km stretch of waterfront that includes gardens, cafés and restaurants. In addition, the city has a variety of water parks, marinas and water sports centres, keeping visitors cool in the strong sun.

Offering Variety

Despite non-nationals making up the majority of the population, the culture, history and tradition of the emirate still exert a strong presence. A central landmark for this is the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, an extraordinary architectural achievement opened in 2007. The mosque features 82 domes and has room for more than 40,000 worshippers. Inspired by diverse Islamic architectural styles, it also contains materials from across the world.

The city offers a wide range of hotels, malls, office complexes and residential districts. It has also carved out a distinct skyline of skyscrapers, including the Etihad Towers and Abu Dhabi Investment Authority Tower, while the Burj Mohammed bin Rashid tower in the Central Market complex is the tallest at 382 metres. The emirate’s malls range in style and floor space, with shopping very much a staple activity for residents and tourists alike. Dozens of other malls and souqs not only offer shopping, but entertainment too.

In the year ahead, the Louvre Abu Dhabi will open in the city, with the Guggenheim and Zayed National Museums still in the planning stages. These institutions will form part of a dedicated cultural district on Saadiyat Island, serving as a major regional and international attraction for the emirate (see analysis).

Destination Management

All these features add up to a major portfolio of attractions, with responsibility for their promotion at home and around the world falling to the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi). The government has identified tourism and culture as strategically important sectors in a number of its major policies and plans, most recently in the Abu Dhabi Plan, published in 2016.

Under the five-year Abu Dhabi Plan, eight of its 25 goals have links to tourism and culture, from the direct goal of creating an “original and attractive tourism destination”, to the related goals of ensuring a sustainable environment and developing an effective transportation system. Within the first goal, the plan sets out several programmes that aim at developing business tourism, events and major festivals, and cultural tourism, promoting tourism marketing within the emirate, improving the tourist experience in shopping centres, and promoting and developing tourist areas.

Assisting with many of these is the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), established in 2006 and the master developer of many large tourist and cultural projects around the emirate. TDIC is 100% owned by the Abu Dhabi government and has a specific strategic mandate to fulfil the government’s aims to become a global tourism destination. Saadiyat Island is the company’s flagship project, including the cultural district, lagoons, marina and beach, while it is also behind projects such as the Eastern Mangroves Hotel and residential development, the Westin Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Golf Club and Marsa Al Bateen, a redevelopment of one of the oldest districts of the city. Outside the capital, TDIC is active in Al Dhafra, having developed the Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort and Spa.

Another key body is the National Corporation for Tourism & Hotels (NCTH), which was set up in 1996, and now owns and manages some of Abu Dhabi’s most prominent hotels and resorts. These include the Intercontinental Hotel Abu Dhabi, the Danat Al Ain Resort, Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort, Tilal Liwa, Al Raha Beach Hotel and the Dhafra Beach Hotel, among many others. The NCTH is a listed company, founded to promote the emirate around the world as a tourism destination, and now includes asset management, catering and hospitality divisions. Meanwhile, hotel and resort owner and asset management company Abu Dhabi National Hotels owns a range of high-end hotels in the emirate, stretching from The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi to the Sheraton Abu Dhabi and the Hilton Al Ain, among others.

Sports Events

In addition to a growing portfolio of attractions, the number of high-profile sporting events taking place in Abu Dhabi has continued to grow in recent years, bringing with them significant economic benefits across airlines, hotels and visitor spend. At the centre of sports promotion in the emirate is the Abu Dhabi Sports Council (ADSC), originally established in 2006 and revamped into an independent corporation through new regulations in 2011. ADSC is largely tasked with building Abu Dhabi’s global reputation as a sporting destination by incorporating international best practices, encouraging more active lifestyles and promoting investment. In addition to developing local sports programmes, ADSC is tasked with drawing major international events, which have brought hundreds of thousands of visitors to the emirate in recent years.

Throughout 2016 and 2017 a host of other annual events took place, including the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, the ITU World Triathlon Series, and the Abu Dhabi Tour. The Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship was first played in 2006 and occurs every year in January. It broadcasts to 450m people around the world, and has seen prize money increase to $2.7m in recent years. Meanwhile, falling under the ITU World Triathlon Series, the Abu Dhabi leg kicks off the global circuit every year in March, and in 2017 the race saw a record 2500 participants from 52 countries. The 671-km third edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour, for its part, took place again in February 2017 in Abu Dhabi City and the surrounding deserts. It was the first time the Abu Dhabi Tour has been granted the elite status of the Union Cycliste Internationale. In addition, the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix has been held every year since 2009 and is managed by Abu Dhabi Motorsports Management. Following expansion efforts in 2014 the complex on Yas Island can now hold 60,000 spectators, and in recent years the event has consistently sold out.

In terms of new events, Abu Dhabi received another boost in November 2016, when the Special Olympics International Board of Directors voted to award it the 2019 World Summer Games, to be held in March of that year. According to the Special Olympics, it will be the world’s largest sporting event of this type in the year, and the first major event for people with special needs and disabilities to be held in the region. The event that year joins the 2019 Asian Cup, the largest football tournament in Asia, where a total of 24 teams will compete across eight UAE stadiums, with the opening game held at Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi.

A reoccurring theme throughout 2017 is likely to be the impact of lower oil revenues on sponsorship opportunities, a key element to making sporting institutions self-financing. However, continued efforts at promotion and tie-ups with key tourism stakeholders are likely to continue boosting the emirate’s clout. A partnership agreement between ADSC and Etihad Airways signed in late 2016, for example, lays the groundwork for a joint long-term approach to international sporting events over the next three years covering some 15 events, while a strategic partnership with Miral Asset Management will formalise Yas Island’s role as destination partner for major upcoming events.

Air Connections

Another key sector authority is the Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), which owns and operates all of the emirate’s air gateways. The largest of these is Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), which lies 30 km to the east of the city centre. AUH has three terminals, with the third an interim facility preparatory to the opening of a major new facility, the Midfield Terminal Building (MTB), due to open in 2019. The MTB will be the largest building in the emirate, with the capacity to process 30m passengers per year, or 8500 passengers per hour, via 65 aircraft gates. With 156 check-in counters and 48 self-service kiosks, the terminal also includes 30,000 sq metres of airline lounges and 28,000 sq metres of retail and food and beverage space. Expanding the airport’s capacity is seen as a key priority, as the number of passenger arrivals continues to grow. In 2016 throughput totalled 24.48m passengers, according to ADAC data, up 5.1% compared to the 23.27m recorded the previous year.

As of early 2017 AUH operated regular flights to some 100 destinations worldwide, via more than 80 airlines. The airport is the home base for the UAE’s national flag carrier Etihad Airways. Local airline Rotana also operates domestic flights from the airport to Sir Bani Yas and Delma islands. In addition, ADAC owns and operates Al Ain International Airport and Al Bateen Executive Airport, which was previously the capital’s main terminal, but which now caters exclusively to business jets and government planes.

Al Ain International Airport lies some 18 km northwest of Al Ain. It operates a 4000-metre runway and 4000-metre taxiway, enabling it to handle the largest long-haul jets. It has been expanding its portfolio of international flights recently – in July 2016 Egypt’s Nile Air started four weekly flights to and from Cairo. This gave the airport regular international connections to three countries, with the other two being India and Pakistan. Charter flights also operate to Ukraine.

Island Airports

Sir Bani Yas and Delma island airports complete ADAC’s portfolio, with both of these key elements included in TDIC and TCA Abu Dhabi’s strategies for developing the Al Dhafra Region as a destination. The former has also recently been upgraded for it to receive regional international flights, although currently Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the only connecting links. In addition, seaplane company Seawings provides chartered services to the island. Sir Bani Yas forms the centrepiece for a wider tourism development project, the Desert Islands. These eight, which include Delma Island and six of the nearby Discovery Islands, contain some of the most important archaeological and ecological sites in the Gulf. According to the development plan, resorts will be located on Sir Bani Yas and Delma, leaving the Discovery Islands undeveloped yet open for excursions by nature enthusiasts, as they are major nesting grounds for a wide variety of birds and marine turtles. Other activities on the main two islands include mangrove and sea kayaking, hiking, snorkelling and scuba diving, history and culture tours, and fishing.

Smooth Sailing

The more traditional way of approaching the Desert Islands has been by boat, with ferries departing from the Port of Mugharag on the mainland to both Sir Bani Yas and Delma. Recently, however, maritime traffic to the islands has been given a boost by Abu Dhabi’s new focus on cruise tourism.

As part of plans to develop the Al Dhafra Region, Sir Bani Yas Beach, a 1.3-km stretch of sand on the island, was officially opened in December 2016. The beach is now a destination for cruise ships operating in the Gulf, making it the region’s only dedicated desert island cruise stopover. Some 60,000 cruise travellers are expected to stop there during its first year. These visitors will be part of an expected 10% growth in liner passengers visiting the emirate during the 2016-17 season, which runs from October to the early summer. TCA Abu Dhabi estimates that 250,000 passengers will visit Abu Dhabi during this period, with the numbers rising to 450,000 per season by 2020 and 808,000 by 2025. These predictions are in line with recent successes. The previous season saw more than 100 ship calls in the emirate, along with approximately 228,000 passengers. This, in turn, was an increase on the season before that, when the numbers show 94 ship calls and 200,000 passengers. By contrast, in 2007 the respective figures stood at 29 ships and a total of 35,000 passengers.

Helping further boost the trade has been the new, dedicated Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal at Zayed Port, in the heart of the capital. Opened at the end of 2015, the terminal building is an architectural landmark, combining traditional Arabic elements with modern, international design. The building therefore complements the nearby cultural quarter on Saadiyat Island, home to Louvre Abu Dhabi and a substantial new cultural district (see analysis). The terminal has been constructed on an old, 8000-sq-metre warehouse site, and includes passport and Customs control, lounges, retail areas, and food and beverage outlets. The terminal also saw a milestone in 2016 when the Celebrity Constellation, MSC Fantasia and Aida Cruises all chose to start using the facility as their home port. Nine regional rotational callers were also confirmed, meaning that a regular season of port visits, including trips to Sir Bani Yas, has been established. TCA Abu Dhabi is also working to make the emirate a halal cruise tourism centre, with liners providing packages specially tailored for Muslim tourists. The authority has already set up an internet booking platform for halal accommodation, and expects cruise tourism to also become a part of this offering.

Etihad

Shore excursions and activities at Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach are being managed by Hala Abu Dhabi, the destination management company of Etihad Aviation Group (EAG), a key player in the emirate’s tourism and culture industry. The group owns Etihad Airways, the national airline, and its portfolio also includes cargo management, airport services and engineering outfits. Etihad Airways began operations in November 2003, and now has a fleet of some 120 aircraft, including five Airbus A380s, serving 112 destinations worldwide. With the addition of codeshares, this number goes up to around 600. The carrier owns 49% of Italian national carrier, Alitalia, and part owns Air Berlin. In 2016 the airline carried 18.5m passengers, a 6% increase on 2015, while cargo carried remained flat at 592,700 tonnes. Etihad employs more than 25,000 people, and won the Air Transport World “Airline of the Year” award in 2016.

Etihad has been making moves to adjust its sails to the current economic headwinds, announcing details of a new commercial partnership with Germany’s Lufthansa in early February 2017 to help support growth. The two groups concluded a $100m catering agreement and a memorandum of understanding to cooperate in aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul.

Land Links

Tourist arrivals into Abu Dhabi do not only come by sea or air, either. The emirate has a land frontier with Saudi Arabia, and this has recently received an upgrade. The Abu Dhabi General Services Company (Musanada) is currently finishing a Dh5.3bn ($1.4bn) highway project, which will upgrade a total of 246 km of roads stretching from Mafraq on the outskirts of the capital to the Saudi Arabian border at Al Ghweifat. The road will pass through Al Dhafra, speeding connections to other tourism development areas. The highway also improves the capital’s road links to Qatar and the countries of the upper Gulf, as Al Ghweifat is in the far west of the emirate, with a short stretch of Saudi territory separating it from the Qatari border. The crossing will also receive an upgrade to its Customs controls and border crossing facilities. The expected final completion date is mid-2017. Meanwhile, land links within the emirate and to other emirates are being further developed, with work currently under way on improving highway access to Dubai and the northern emirates beyond. These transport-related developments may even include a hyperloop, a futuristic train system which uses electric propulsion to accelerate a vehicle through a tube in a low pressure environment, with one route linking Abu Dhabi to Al Ain and another linking the capital to Dubai, with both journey times projected at just 8-12 minutes (see Transport chapter).

Countries Of Origin

These regional links should reinforce the popularity of Abu Dhabi among travellers from other parts of the GCC. Yet the emirate also has many visitors from further afield. “There has been a salient shift in source markets over the last few years,” Desmond Hatton, general manager of Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi Hotel, told OBG. “Emerging markets, mainly in Asia, such as China, Korea and Japan, present a whole gamut of opportunities,” he added.

According to TCA Abu Dhabi, in 2016 UAE citizens were first among the top-10 nationalities staying at Abu Dhabi’s hotels, with a 33% share of all room nights. The UAE was followed by India with 7%, the UK (7%), then China (5%) and the Philippines (4%). Egyptian, Saudi, US, German and Jordanian visitors were also among the top-10 nationalities. A comparison of monthly data in 2016 shows that while some of these countries may trade rankings – although the UAE is consistently number one – all are generally within the top 10; making these the emirate’s principle tourism markets.

In light of such statistics, more emphasis will be given to cultural attractions with local appeal, as well as of interest to international travellers. Indeed, this is the rationale behind the plan’s programme to promote “tourism marketing within the emirate”. Developing recreational desert activities with a strong relevance to local people, for example, is specifically mentioned.

At the same time, TCA Abu Dhabi is actively promoting the emirate in the other top-10 markets identified above. In the first half of 2016 Indian visitors were the largest group, accounting for 7% of all hotel stays, up 20% year-on-year (y-o-y), according to TCA Abu Dhabi. There are currently more than 300 flights a week between Abu Dhabi and Indian destinations, and while many of the passengers may be employees working in the emirate, or transiting through AUH, there are also a large number who come for vacations as well as to celebrate weddings and hold meetings, incentive, conference and exhibition (MICE) events (see analysis). TCA Abu Dhabi is making a major effort to boost these numbers with promotions aimed at the emerging sub-continental tourism market.

Key Market

Another rapidly developing market of origin is China. In March 2016 TCA Abu Dhabi held its “Seven Emirates, One Destination” road show in Beijing. China is already a key growth market for Abu Dhabi, with 2015 seeing 177,198 Chinese visitors to the emirate – up 47% on the 2014 total. This was repeated in 2016 when a significant 31% rise to 231,916 visitors was recorded. In terms of guest nights, these surged by 28% to 337,252 in 2016, following 31% growth the previous year. Etihad currently operates flights to Beijing, Chengdu, Shanghai and Hong Kong. The daily service to Shanghai was upgraded with the introduction of a new 299-seat 787 Dreamliner in August 2016.

India and China are being targeted, along with the UK, US, Germany and the other GCC states, for TCA Abu Dhabi’s “Extraordinary Stories” promotional campaign, a series of commercials and videos released to dovetail with periods when people are often planning their holidays. The campaign hit the airwaves in the US, UK and Germany in January 2017, while the Chinese New Year and Golden Week will see the launch of the adverts there. The US is also being specifically targeted for MICE business, given the numbers of international organisations and multinationals headquartered there. The campaign is consistent with the Abu Dhabi Plan’s goal of creating an “original and attractive tourism destination”, and emphasises the cultural, historical and unique aspects of the emirate, along with its MICE opportunities (see analysis).

Room With A View

In keeping with the growing numbers of new arrivals, the emirate’s hospitality sector has seen a recent surge in hotel room numbers. At the end of 2016 the emirate had 169 hotels and apartment hotels, providing a total of 30,662 rooms, according to TCA Abu Dhabi. Hotels had a 79% share of these, with 43 five-star, 36 four-star, 22 three-star, six two-star and six one-star establishments. In addition, there were 21 deluxe, 20 superior and 15 standard apartment hotels, providing a total of 6482 rooms.

Comparing this with the figures from December 2015, four new five-star hotels opened their doors during the year, along with one four-star, while the number of four-star and three-star hotels increased by one, three new two-star hotels were opened and the number of one stars went up by one. There was a decline in the number of apartment hotels from 59 to 56 over the 12 months, with a reduction of one standard class and three superior class, but an increase of one deluxe class. Major new hotel openings in 2016 included the 422-room Millennium Bab Al Qasr, Four Seasons with 190 rooms and 125 serviced apartments, the 315-room Marriott Downtown and the 64-unit Marriott Executive Apartments Downtown.

A perceptible shift towards the higher end in hotel and apartment hotel accommodation has created opportunities for hoteliers in the mid-range. “Undoubtedly, the supply of hotel rooms in both fiveand four-star establishments has increased considerably,” Hatton told OBG. Mid-range accommodation does offer more opportunities for potential bookers in uncertain economic times. Many companies across different industries are implementing cost optimisation measures wherever possible; therefore, the growing demand for mid-range accommodation is not a surprise. Other trends included increases in guest numbers, but decreases in the length of stay. The former was up 7% y-o-y at the end of 2016, while the latter was down 23%. This resulted in an overall y-o-y decline in revenue by 10%. It was a challenging year for the hotel sector, with revenue per available room (RevPAR) down 13% on 2015 to $312. According to STR Global, occupancy stood at 74% at the end of 2015, then dropped to 71% by the end of 2016. The last few months of the year are generally good for hotel revenues in Abu Dhabi, especially November, with the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix boosting occupancy. That there was an annual decline demonstrates the impact of current economic conditions in the region and internationally.

New Additions

These market conditions may ease somewhat in the year ahead, however, yet at the same time, the number of new hotels under construction – and preparing to come on-line – likely means that RevPAR will remain under pressure. According to real estate services firm JLL, Abu Dhabi should see 2000 keys added in 2017 and an additional 1100 during 2018.

In Abu Dhabi, the five-star, 378-room Hard Rock Hotel is one of those due for a 2017 debut, and is expected to fit well with Abu Dhabi’s profile as an original destination, along with its increasing entertainment and music portfolio. Another hotel that is set to open in 2017 is the Double Tree by Hilton Abu Dhabi Masdar City. This is a 316-room establishment at Masdar, a project located on the edge of the capital that aims to operate entirely on renewable energy (see Utilities chapter). The five-star Ramee Grand will add another 300 rooms in 2017, while NCTH – in collaboration with TDIC – is developing a 7.5-ha plot on Saadiyat Island to include a 300-room Ritz Carlton. The island should also see the 294-room Jumeirah Saadiyat Island open its doors in 2017. NCTH added 24 rooms to the Danat Jebel Dhanna resort in late 2016, with the Dhafra Beach Hotel also set to double its room count in 2017. The 184-room Intercontinental Abu Dhabi Grand Marina should open in 2018, and another establishment, the 2018-room Biltmore Bateen Marina Abu Dhabi, is also set to be completed in 2017-18. Many others are in the pipeline, meaning that the market is likely to continue to soften, while choices grow ever wider for the visitor.

Outlook

With a strong strategy behind it, solid government support and a host of well-developed facilities, Abu Dhabi’s tourism and culture sectors look likely to continue their transformation, with the emirate no longer seen as a place primarily for business travel, but as a destination of choice, with an extensive offering for visitors. Plans to raise the emirate’s profile abroad will also emphasise Abu Dhabi’s unique offering, with its cultural aspects soon to be second to none within the Gulf, once the museums district opens up. The emirate has created a strategy that defines it as a place for visitors to experience the tradition and culture of this part of the world, while providing the opportunity to engage with high-end global arts and entertainment events.

The year ahead promises to be a vibrant one as these strategies roll out – particularly in an environment of increased global economic and political uncertainty. In such times, good destination management, promotion and customer service become even more crucial, especially in a region as competitive as the Gulf. Those facilities able to manage costs while providing the highest-quality services are likely to win out, with many in Abu Dhabi ready to deliver precisely this balance.

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The Report: Abu Dhabi 2017

Tourism & Culture chapter from The Report: Abu Dhabi 2017

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