The number of visitors to Abu Dhabi grew by 16 per cent in 2007 – one of the highest growth rates for the sector in the world. However, the head of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) said the emirate does not have enough hotel rooms to accommodate the increase.
A strategic study on Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector conducted by ADTA for 2015 said about 1.37 million tourists visited the capital in 2007, compared to 1.18m in 2006. And the study predicted the sector will host 1.58 million visitors in 2008.
The study said the emirate is likely to see 12 per cent annual growth in the coming years, with three million tourists planning trips to Abu Dhabi by 2015.
However, Director General Mubarak Hamad Al Muhairi said: “The small number of hotel rooms in the capital is the biggest challenge that Abu Dhabi faces in the implementation of its strategic plan.”
“While the number of hotel rooms in the emirate is about 10,000, ADTA’s plan needs to provide 13,500 hotel rooms in 2008, 16,800 in 2010 and 24,400 in 2015.”
In 2007, the number of nights tourists spent in hotels was more than 2.8 million, an increase of 16 per cent over 2006.
The hospitality sector, Al Muhairi said, is not ready for such large growth. “Abu Dhabi needs about 30 new hotels over the next seven years. There are a number of hotel projects that have been announced or launched. Some of the projects were a result of the partnership between the private sector and the ADTA – represented by the investment arm, the Tourism Development and Investment Company.”
Tourism is making up a growing percentage of the emirate’s GDP. “The tourism sector in Abu Dhabi in 2006 contributed Dh8.68 billion to GDP, which accounts for 2.9 per cent of the GDP and 7.1 per cent of the total production of non-oil sectors. We expect the rate of contribution to increase in 2007.”
Hotels in 2006 yielded a return of Dh1.8bn, compared to Dh1.5bn in 2005, with a growth rate of 19 per cent.
Al Muhairi said Abu Dhabi hotels saw a dramatic upswing in returns over the past 10 years and its growth rate is among the highest.
“Returns of hotels in 1997 were Dh700 million, compared to Dh1.8bn in 2006. The five-star hotels had the biggest share of total yields as their returns came to more than Dh1.2bn. The four-star hotels come second with returns of Dh290m.”
Investment in the tourism sector in the UAE is the highest in the Middle East, Al Muhairi said. Qatar comes second, which is also witnessing dramatic growth.
The annual growth rate for tourism globally stands at 4.1 per cent, while the region is seeing an increase of 3.9 per cent per year. Exceptions to the figure include destinations such as Dubai and Abu Dhabi, which have seen growth of more than 10 per cent. European countries and Japan top the list of top 10 tourist markets for Abu Dhabi. In 2006, 8.8 per cent of visitors came from the United Kingdom. Germans came in second at eight per cent, followed by the United States (1.9 per cent), Russia (1.2 per cent), Italy, Japan, Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands.
Investment boost for UAE tourism industry
Investments of $136 billion (Dh499bn) will be made to develop business and tourism assets to increase visitor numbers from 1.35 million in 2006 to 3 million by 2015. The total value of announced and ongoing projects in Abu Dhabi is close to Dh1 trillion. Around 40 private sector hotels and resorts will be built by 2010.
The emirate aims to woo 15 million business and leisure visitors to contribute 20 per cent of GDP. One of the major upcoming projects is the $1.8bn World Project – a collection of 300 manmade islands modelled on the continents and due for completion in 2010. The Burj Dubai opens in 2008 and the $14bn Palm development is due in 2009.
The emirate is investing Dh3bn over five years to increase the number of visitors. Key development include the Radisson Al Aqah Beach Resort and the Fujairah Paradise residential and tourism complex – both due to open in 2009.
RAS AL KHAIMAH
Plans are in place to attract leisure and industrial sector investment of Dh50bn to quadruple the number of visitors by 2010 to 100,000. Key developments include the Dh2.9bn Al Marjan island hotel, marina and luxury villa complex due to complete by 2011.
A $62m expansion project has been designed to increase the capacity of Sharjah Airport to 8 million passengers a year. The $18bn Al Nuojoom Islands project will be completed by 2010 to deliver hotel resorts, a golf course, shopping complexes and residential areas.
UMM AL QUWAIN
The Imar Spa has begun offering Overnight Spa Escape packages aimed at Dubai’s residents. The $3.3bn Umm Al Quwain Marina project will provide more than 80,000 homes, boutique hotels, retail and leisure facilities in a marina-themed environment.
The emirate has a 10-year investment programme to boost the economy and tourism by building major roads, transport infrastructure and a metro link to Dubai. After investing $7bn in 2004 and 2005, the emirate plans four major property projects including the $2bn Ajman Marina.
Source: ‘The Future of Travel and Tourism in the Middle East – a vision to 2020.’
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