The United Arab Emirates hascoveted for itself an image of unrivaled opulence, with few rivals on PlanetEarth. Dubai put a massive exclamation mark on this sentiment at the beginningof 2010 with the spectacular opening ceremony of the Burj Khalifa, which boaststhe world’s highest observation deck, the highest number of stories, highestoccupied floor and the tallest service elevator in the world. Not to be left inthe shadows, Abu Dhabi has also been busy creating its own noise this year,with the capital city inaugurating Ferrari World, the Ferrari-themed amusementpark at Yas Island, home to Formula Rossa, the world’s fastest roller coaster.To add to the excitement, the prestigious Formula One race, the Abu Dhabi GrandPrix, was held at the Yas Marina Circuit, crowning champion Sebastian Vettel.
The latest figures availablefrom the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) reveal that the emirate’s directtourism industry, which includes sectors directly in contact with visitors,generated AED6 billion ($1.6 billion) in 2008, or 1.1 percent of the economy.Tourism directly generated almost 40,000 jobs in the emirate that same year,accounting for 3.6 percent of the total employment. The total economic impactof tourism in Abu Dhabi, which includes direct, indirect and induced effects,amounted to $4.6 billion in 2008, or 3.2 percent of the economy. When excludingthe oil sector, the relative importance of the total economic impact of tourismrose to 10.7 percent of the emirate’s non-oil GDP.
“Global attractions like theFormula One race, Ferrari World and our events portfolio attributed to growthconsiderably.” said Lawrence Franklin, Strategy and Policy Director of ADTA,adding: “Ferrari World is important for us not just because of its massive sizeor scale but predominantly due to the aspirational quality of the Ferraribrand. It sends out a strong signal about Abu Dhabi’s leisure tourismcredentials.”
Charting the growth
Franklin said that domestictourism in Abu Dhabi showed an 8 percent increase in guest generation in thefirst 10 months of 2010. “We have seen strong domestic growth from the UAE andvibrant growth from the [United Kingdom].”
The UK market retained itstop slot amongst international markets, with 18 percent growth rate realizing94,776 guests. India, the United States and Germany were close behind,according to Franklin.
Some 1.48 million guestsstayed in the emirate’s hotels and apartments in the first 10 months of theyear with total guest nights climbing to some 4.1 million.
“We are well on our way toachieving our 2010 hotel guest target of 1.65 million,” said Franklin. “Giventhe 16 percent increase in hotel guests in the first 10 months, optimisticallywe hope to go beyond that figure. We are targeting 1.9 million hotel guests for2011, which will be an approximately 15 percent increase from what we willachieve in 2010.” In parallel, Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest shoppingand entertainment destinations, claimed to have entertained 45 million visitorsin 2010.
Dubai’s Candylicious, theworld’s largest candy shop, saw visitor traffic of 1.5 million in 2010, ofwhich approximately 40 percent were foreign and regional tourists. The shopentertains 2,500 to 3,000 walk-in customers on any given week-day, whereas onweekends the visitor numbers can go up to 10,000.
“Dubai is an entertainmentdestination. So many tourists come to this market from the Middle East, Europeand elsewhere. The number of franchise requests that we get [for Candylicious]on a daily basis is illustrative of the massive influx of foreign visitors,”said Sunaina Gill, Director of Operations and Merchandising of Retail is DetailL.L.C. On top of Candylicious, Gill’s company operates eight different conceptstores in Dubai Mall.
She added: “Dubai knows howto entertain people; it has become a place where people come from across theworld to relax, shop and get entertained. From the way it is built, Dubai has along way to go for many years to come.”
Amadeus Gulf, a servicescompany that is a leading technology partner for the regional travel andtourism industry, is also confident of the region’s overall outlook.
“According to the latestUnited Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) report the Middle East hasshown positive results with 16 percent growth for arrivals in the region, thehighest among all the world’s regions,” said Antoine Medawar, vice president ofAmadeus Middle East & North Africa. “Compared to the same period of thepre-crisis peak year of 2008, international tourist arrivals increased over onemillion [more than 3 percent] in the Middle East. International arrivals inDubai grew by 9 percent in the first half of the year, while its internationalairport set a new traffic record in July [4.3 million passengers].”
What is working well?
“Our strategic hub status,increased aviation capacity and future development prospects increase the scopeand potential of the tourism markets open to Abu Dhabi,” said Franklin, notingthat in addition to business tourism generating steady revenue for the country,leisure tourism has grown as well.
Dubai has also been toutedas a global leisure tourism destination and impressive passenger figuresrevealed by Dubai Airports mirror the city’s growth in 2010.
“This unprecedented growthhas been driven by Dubai’s ideal location — within eight hours of two-thirds ofthe world’s population — an open skies policy that welcomes airlines fromacross the globe, the provision of
top-flight infrastructure atcompetitive rates and the emergence of Emirates Airline as one of the topairlines on the planet,” said Paul Griffiths, chief executive officer of DubaiAirports.
Niche tourism set to soar
Along with general tourismpromotion, many also feel there is an inherent need for focus on the nichesectors within the tourism portfolio such as health, cruise and green tourism.These niche markets, in years to come, will act as major contributing factorsto the overall tourism revenue.