Abu Dhabi reports growth in cultural, business, medical, and cruise tourism

The cruise sector provided the emirate with more than 350,000 visitors

Ali Hassan Al Shaiba is Acting Executive Director of the Marketing and Communications Sector at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism. We asked him how tourism is progressing in Abu Dhabi and what are the main drivers.

Visitor figures to Abu Dhabi have once again risen year- on-year, and we welcomed an incredible 10 million visitors to the emirate in 2018. There are many factors driving this success; we have been greatly diversifying our tourism offering, and aside from the usual holidaymakers, placing a greater focus on developing different sub-sectors – such as cultural, business, medical, and cruise tourism. This has been paying off – in 2018, the cruise sector provided us more than 350,000 visitors, while our world-class cultural assets, such as Louvre Abu Dhabi, attracted more than 2.6 million people to the emirate.


Cultural tourism is of course a main attraction. What’s new in this respect?

December saw the addition of a jewel to Abu Dhabi’s cultural crown, with the much-anticipated launch of the Al Hosn cultural site. The original urban block of the city, Al Hosn features our oldest and most significant landmark, Qasr Al Hosn, now transformed into a museum narrating the history of the emirate, as well as the Cultural Foundation, dedicated to all forms of contemporary Emirati culture. Al Hosn takes its place alongside our many other cultural assets, such as landmark museum Louvre Abu Dhabi, which in November 2018 celebrated both its one-year anniversary and the tremendous milestone of one million visitors.

Gastronomy is growing as an attraction in Abu Dhabi. What kind of events do you have that are attracting food lovers?

Abu Dhabi is a true melting pot, and you can nd cuisines here from all over the world, so food is certainly one of our main attractions. We have a number of fun and tasty public events celebrating global gastronomy. Taste of Abu Dhabi is an annual long weekend of food, drink and music on Yas Island, showcasing the newest and most exciting restaurants and chefs from around the world, and offering live cooking demonstrations and masterclasses.

How are your source markets evolving?

We have six Tier 1 markets: the Gulf Cooperation Council member states, the United States, UK, India, Germany and China. However, the variety and scope of the emirate’s offerings are attracting a wide demographic of tourists from these source destinations and far beyond.

What’s new on the hospitality front – in terms of new resorts and hotels?

We have many new luxury hotels enhancing the hospitality landscape. Notable recent additions include The Edition, located in the redeveloped Bateen Marina area, and the Saadiyat Rotana. Saadiyat Island in particular has so much to offer guests, with a cluster of fantastic resorts, beautiful beaches, and for a dash of culture, the exhibitions and events going on at Manarat al Saadiyat and NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery.

Attractions are one of the key components of our tourism strategy, sitting alongside our work to create an even more action-packed calendar of events. At the end of last year, we launched an incentive scheme to develop content and programme collaboration to build on the already established annual events calendar. For attractions, Yas Island now boasts the recently-opened Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi. Yas Island will also be host to SeaWorld Abu Dhabi, scheduled to open in 2022 as the rst-ever SeaWorld outside the US.

How important is ITB Berlin as a platform to promote Abu Dhabi on the global stage?

ITB Berlin is a vital platform for Abu Dhabi to show its best facets to the world. Each year, we nd ourselves building important ties with our fellow attendees, and a number of initiatives and partnerships have resulted from the valuable networking that we conduct at the fair. Quite simply, ITB Berlin is the premier event for us to promote our brand and all the emirate has to offer

Photo: Ali Hassan Al Shaiba Acting Executive Director of the Marketing and Communications Sector at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism