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Etihad tour of India 'brilliant'

By Staff

Abu Dhabi is gearing up to attract a growing number of Indian visitors, with the number of tourists leaving the Asian country’s shores reckoned to reach 20.5 million by 2015.

According to Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, India is Abu Dhabi’s second largest international source market. Some 108,170 Indian nationals stayed in the emirate’s hotels and hotel apartments in 2011 - a 30 per cent increase over 2010.

Additionally, the emirate is attracting a mixed genre of tourists from India – there is a growing demand for leisure tourism packages while business tourism is still going strong.

Travel industry representatives predict increased demand for Abu Dhabi coming from the recently-launched 96-hour visa offer from Etihad Airways, one of the UAE’s national carriers, which currently operates 52 flights a week to Abu Dhabi International Airport from eight Indian cities and is planning to further increase connections.

“We are seeing a brilliant response from India following the launch of the 96-hour visa offer, we are expecting a great business year,” said Alexy John, Manager – Pricing, Etihad Holidays.

While business tourism has been the main reason for Indians visiting Abu Dhabi, tour operators are now witnessing a shift in the Indian traveller’s perception of the emirate with the opening of Yas and Saadiyat island’s high end resorts and attractions such as Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and the Saadiyat Beach Golf Club.

“Abu Dhabi has become a major destination for the luxury travel segment especially with the opening of high-end resorts. We are even getting specific requests for four and five days packages on Saadiyat and Yas only, this shows the diversity of Abu Dhabi’s holiday offering”, said Horizons Dream Vacations’s  Mohinder Tirath, who characterises his company’s outbound business share to Abu Dhabi as 70 per cent for upmarket leisure holidays and 30 per cent for business tourism.

Demand for longer stays in the emirate as well as requests for stopovers is increasingly becoming the trend, especially for honeymooners and business traveller looking to extend their stays in Abu Dhabi, according to many Indian industry influencers.

“Two years ago, requests for visits to Abu Dhabi were mainly for business purposes, but over the past two years we have seen a sharp increase for stopover packages to Abu Dhabi with honeymooners and business travellers asking for longer stays in the emirate. Abu Dhabi is a strong contender to become a stand-alone leisure tourism destination for the Indian luxury traveller,” said Priyavrat, Senior Tour Executive, Diplomatic Travel Point.

A delegation from Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry has just concluded a five-stop road show in India and the organisers claim they saw an impressive turnout by 667 outbound Indian tour operators and media members looking to forge closer B2B ties with the emirate’s stakeholders.

The road show, which covered Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bangalore and New Delhi, saw major Abu Dhabi tourism stakeholders reach out to the Indian travel trade in a bid to gain an increasing market share from the vast republic.

Stephen Hall, Associate Director of Sales at the newly-opened, five-star Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel described the road show’s Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi legs as “highly productive” and Chennai and Hyderabad as “fact finding” with the hotel determined to return and follow up on leads later this year.

“We are about to close a major deal for a group of 500 guests from Bangalore coming to a conference in Abu Dhabi, this is a great achievement for us and Abu Dhabi. We will definitely return on a sales mission later this year to keep the momentum going,” added Hall.

Abu Dhabi’s MICE and exhibition facilities are also attracting interest from India, with companies like Fore Representations & Travels looking to organise real estate and fashion related trade shows in Abu Dhabi.

“We are planning to expand our business to the Middle East. I will travel to Abu Dhabi in March to meet with industry representatives and will hopefully get the licensing required,” said Uday Bedi, Director of Marketing and Public Relations at Delhi’s Fore Representations & Travels.