Abu Dhabi’s Cultural Heritage Underscores Impressive Year

‘Your Extraordinary Story’ destination campaign helps inspire record hotel guest numbers

With Abu Dhabi achieving a record 4.4 million hotel guests in 2016 (+8%), HE Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, is back at ITB to further tap new markets. ITB Berlin News spoke to Mr Ghobash about key tourism trends in Abu Dhabi, the evolution of source markets, and the secrets to recent success.

The outstanding results last year demonstrate the emirate’s growing international appeal and our continuing success in positioning Abu Dhabi as a global destination with unique experiences, rich cultural heritage, ideal for families and MICE events.Our strongest growth comes from Asian markets. India remains our largest overseas market with 323,388 guest arrivals (up 15%) while visaon- arrival helped pushing China to the third place with arrivals up by 31%.

Our strongest growth comes from Asian markets. India remains our largest overseas market with 323,388 guest arrivals (up 15%) while visaon- arrival helped pushing China to the third place with arrivals up by 31%.

European markets still remain very important. The UK retains its top European position with 238,167 hotel guests while Germany comes second at 135,541. German-speaking markets generally make a substantial contribution to the emirate’s hotel guest numbers, and dominate arrivals in our cruise sector.

During the 2015/16 cruise season, Germany contributed to 56% of all passengers while Austria’s share reached 3% and Switzerland’s 2%. The cruise sector welcomes year after year record numbers of passengers. We now target a further 250,000 cruise travellers within the next three years, to reach 450,000 passengers by 2020 and 808,000 by 2025.

The launch of TCA Abu Dhabi’s ‘Your Extraordinary Story’ global destination campaign already showed incredible success, sharing our emirate’s unique appeal and identity.

Why is culture is so central to your tourism offering?

We are mandated with preserving , protecting , managing and promoting the emirate’s cultural heritage, especially our historical and archaeological sites while overseeing the development of Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Cultural District iconic museums such as the future Louvre Abu Dhabi. We are indeed maximising the emirate’s attributes and harnessing partnerships with global organisations – Abu Dhabi Emirate is home to UNESCO World Heritage sites highlighting 5,000 years of civilisation, and we promote these sites in Al Ain while making our cultural assets available to the public. Seasonal campaigns and headline events such as Abu Dhabi Summer Season, Abu Dhabi Food Festival and Abu Dhabi Art are set to be back in 2017. Wahat Al Karama – a tribute to UAE’s soldiers and other Emiratis serving our Nation – the historic Qasr Al Hosn, and the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque are also popular attractions.

What are you primarily promoting at ITB Berlin this year?

Among TCA Abu Dhabi ’s objectives at ITB Berlin is to develop strong partner marketing initiatives with leading tour operators. We also capitalise on our cruise product while building the international profile of the Authority’s global destination campaign. We are joined by more than 50 of the emirate’s leading hotels, tour operators, attractions and destination management companies to highlight the best of the emirate and show that the destination is now reaching maturity through its diversity.

How are tourism infrastructures evolving?

Tourism capacity building occurs through improving facilities, attracting leading hospitality names, and developing world-class attractions. In the cruise sector, we recently opened Sir Bani Yas Cruise Beach in the Western Region – the Arabian Gulf’s only dedicated desert island cruise stopoverfollowing the launch of a permanent cruise terminal in the heart of our capital. Later this year, the opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi in Saadiyat Cultural District will have universal appeal, and cement Abu Dhabi as the cultural hub of the Arabian Peninsula by showcasing world art and culture. Saadiyat Island will be the world’s largest single concentration of premier cultural assets