Abu Dhabi is on a major drive to boost inbound intra-regional tourism with the hosting of its biggest GCC destination familiarisation trip to date. Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) partnered various stakeholders to host more than 50 leading GCC tour operators, DMCs and travel professionals to show them how much more there is to see and do in the emirate. All the hosted guests were first-time visitors to the UAE capital.
“We have seen some good hotel guest numbers from the GCC in the first eight months of this year, with across-the-board increases, yet we are far from where we want to be, and we know we have all the right ingredients to be front of mind for GCC travellers when choosing their holiday destination,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director of Promotions & Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi.
“We are a safe and affordable destination and an easily accessible destination from the air, land and sea. We are a competitive destination, with some of the best room rates of regional market, and we are continuously expanding and enhancing the visitor experience.”
According to TCA Abu Dhabi figures, the emirate welcomed 120,037 GCC hotel guests in the first eight months of the year, up 17% on the same period in 2012. Guest nights rose 19% over the same eight month period year-on-year to 262,290, with length of stay stable at 4.4 nights over 2012.
Saudi Arabia is Abu Dhabi’s largest GCC inbound market, clocking up 133,634 hotel nights in the first eight months of 2013, followed by Oman (48,789), Qatar (41,767) and Kuwait (38,100).
And TCA Abu Dhabi believes that with a reinvigorated focus on regional travellers, coupled with a broadening shopping, leisure, attraction and events programme coming on-stream, the emirate will see increased interest from the GCC.
“We know the potential is there and we are working very hard to capture our share. Yas Island’s continuing evolution as a leading entertainment and lifestyle destination, plus our huge diversity of hotels, apartments and resorts – from desert to sea to city – that are both affordable and cater to every demand as well as more cultural and entertainment attractions put us in a strong position,” added Al Nuaimi.
“Furthermore with the likes of the FIFA Under 17 World Cup, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Al Ain Aerobatic Show, which have strong regional appeal and are being supported by robust travel packaging options, we should see solid uptake for these events from neighbouring countries.”
As part of the four day programme, the 50 plus delegation visited many of the emirate’s top attractions, including Yas Island; Yas Marina Circuit; Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, recently voted among the top world landmark attractions by Tripadvisor; Abu Dhabi Corniche; Emirates Palace hotel; Arabian Nights; St Regis Abu Dhabi; top theme parks, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld, which was named by CNN as among the world’s top 12 waterparks; Monte Carlo Beach Club and the capital’s latest high-end retail destination, The Galleria at Sowwah Square.
For Mohammed Al Ruhaiem of Fursan Al-Jazeera Tourism, Saudi Arabia the trip was something of an eye-opener. “Certainly I wasn’t totally aware of the scale of the tourism developments in Abu Dhabi and the destination does have the accommodation and attractions which will appeal to Saudi families – the safety of the destination will also go down well with them. For the business traveller too there’s much here to encourage them to stay on a while once business is over. Abu Dhabi also offers greater motorsports facilities than other regional destinations, and it’s just a short plane ride away.”
Qatar’s Chandni Kale of Continental Tourism Network was struck by Abu Dhabi’s luxury-meets-affordability proposition. “This is a highly competitive destination for Qataris with the luxurious touches that they seek. I think we have a lot that we can now go out and sell.”
Abu Dhabi’s major events line-up is key to attracting the Kuwait traveller, according to Lamiaa Eldeeb of Ghanem Travel.
“There are many events here which will appeal to both expatriates and nationals in Kuwait and we will now be getting the word out wider. The F1 is an obvious sell to Kuwait motorsports fans as is January’s golf championship.”
The TCA Abu Dhabi GCC familiarisation trip was supported by Miral, Kurban Tours and a number of the emirate’s hotels and attractions.