Abu Dhabi has bucked the global tourism downturn by reporting a 2 percent rise in hotel guest numbers last year.
Some 1.54 million guests stayed in hotels throughout the burgeoning emirate in 2009, racking up some 4,673,494 guest nights. Guest stays in the final quarter grew by 16% year-on year.
“The year ended on a high with a very successful last quarter driven by major events and an Eid break with strong stay-at-home characteristics,” explained His Excellency Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA). UAE hotel guests grew by 43% year-on-year for the month of December alone.
Domestic tourism helped underpin Abu Dhabi’s performance accounting for 42% of hotel guests - 650,585 in all - a rise of 26% on the previous year.
“Strong growth in domestic demand made an important contribution to Abu Dhabi’s ability to weather the global tourism industry challenges brought on largely by the global financial crisis and the spread of H1N1,” explained Al Muhairi.
“While the last 12 months have been challenging, as they have for all destinations, we believe growth is a very solid performance in the face of global decline. Over the longer term, we have recorded very strong growth in guests, especially over the past five years with double digit increases every year until 2009. Numbers have doubled since 2004 from 960,000 to over 1.5 million in 2009.”
On the international front, Abu Dhabi’s main source markets for hotel guests were the UK (96,709), USA (67,804), India (61,241), Germany (59,667), Egypt (43,304), France (34,776), Saudi Arabia (30,717) and Italy (29,653).
“Further field markets such as Russia and China are gaining in significance while markets in South East Asia have shown strong recent growth benefiting from enhanced air access,” added Al Muhairi.
Other performance highlights included a rise in the contribution of the Meetings, Incentive, Convention and Exhibitions (MICE) segment to the hotel guest total – up from 8% in 2008 to 10% last year.
“We expect this sector to continue to perform well and are actively competing for business,” said Al Muhairi. “Our Advantage Abu Dhabi programme is a good case in point where we are providing seed funding for business tourism events which align with our emirate’s economic vision.”
The Director General said a wide number of positive factors contributed to the positive outcome.
“Some of these key factors include the unwavering commitment of the Abu Dhabi government to a well-thought-out plan, a strong and vibrant economy as well as the substantial strides made in the development of the tourism infrastructure including expansion of airport capacity, exhibition and meetings space, the completion of iconic hotel developments and an overall increase in hotel/hotel apartment room capacity which went from 12,800 rooms at the beginning of the year to 17,500 at the year-end.
“At the same time our roll call of events on offer, from business to leisure, sports, food and culture is now truly world-class.”
The past 12 months have also, according to Al Muhairi, been characterised by influential third party endorsements for Abu Dhabi as a leisure destination including Top Ten places to visit in 2010 recommendations from leading travel guides Lonely Planet and Frommer’s. “The overall picture is one of rapidly developing momentum,” said Al Muhairi.
ADTA is now targeting 1.65 million hotel guests for 2010 – a 10% rise on last year - and believes the leisure tourism segment will play a significant role in achieving the target.
Recent accommodation additions to supply have created a more competitive and better-value environment for business travellers and a more fertile ground for the next big phase in expanding our leisure tourism offering.”
More rooms are due to join Abu Dhabi’s accommodation stock in 2010. The emirate is currently hosting the launch of the Gary Player-designed Saadiyat Beach Golf Course and next month will see the launch of the Yas Links golf course. By the end of this year Abu Dhabi will also see the opening of the huge Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park – the world’s largest indoor theme park.
“Our tourism sector is responding magnificently to the challenges and opportunities presented by the current environment,” said Al Muhairi. “Collaboration is on the rise and new products and packages are consistently finding their way into the travel trade and direct to consumers. ADTA will continue to support the sector through all its programmes and activities and looks forward to a successful 2010.”