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Will Abu Dhabi’s new tourism vision drive international influx?

The inauguration of Louvre Abu Dhabi heralded the launch of Saadiyat Island as a cultural destination

Saadiyat Island, the cultural centrepiece of Abu Dhabi’s tourism offering, has unveiled a new vision which seeks to attract 19 million visitors and contribute AED 4.2 billion ($1.1 billion) in direct revenue by 2025.

The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) and developer Miral unveiled the new strategy to support the diversification of the emirate’s economy.

According to Rabia Yasmeen, senior research consultant at Euromonitor International, the move could help Abu Dhabi transition from a destination that’s mostly popular with domestic tourists to a more attractive alternative to neighbour Dubai.

She told AGBI: “Abu Dhabi has consistently evolved as a tourist destination given the preservation of its cultural heritage and investment in activities and attractions. The emirate has been the leading emirate for domestic tourists; however, the city still holds unrealised potential for greater interest and value from international travellers.

“Dubai has been the leading city in the United Arab Emirates in terms of international city arrivals… Speaking of international tourists to Dubai who then also visit Abu Dhabi, the conversion remains subjective as most tourists would stay in Dubai but visit Abu Dhabi for a day trip rather than an overnight stay, impacting the inbound length of stay and the value generated by the international tourists in the emirate.”

But she added that the Saadiyat strategy, combined with the launch of a new summer season campaign and the appointment of US comic and actor Kein Hart as the first chief island officer of Yas Island “can boost the emirate’s appeal to both domestic and more importantly international tourists”.

Saleh Mohamed Saleh Al Geziry, director general for tourism at DCT Abu Dhabi, agreed. “Saadiyat Island is undoubtedly one of Abu Dhabi’s finest treasures. It is unmatched anywhere in the world for its stunning natural beaches, world-class arts, cultural, educational, wellness, sporting and F&B experiences. We look forward to elevating awareness of Saadiyat’s enriching experiences as part of Abu Dhabi’s wider offering. From culture and entertainment to amazing landmarks and natural landscapes – all within close proximity of one another – Abu Dhabi is a must-visit destination.”

He added: “2022 is a pivotal year for Abu Dhabi as we continue to increase the many diverse and captivating experiences to suit all travellers’ passion points across culture, entertainment, nature and adventure… we want to inspire future visitors to think of Abu Dhabi as a year-round destination… We are excited to continue building strategic partnerships with domestic and international partners.”

Saadiyat Island is home to the first international outpost of the iconic Louvre Museum, with three more world-class museums set to open in the coming years. 

These include the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi project, which will be the largest of its kind in the region.

The museum, currently under construction and due to be completed at the end of 2025, will be located in the Saadiyat Cultural District.

The island also boasts five luxury waterfront resorts comprising global brands Park Hyatt and St Regis as well as regional pioneers Jumeirah, Rotana and Rixos.

In March, DCT Abu Dhabi appointed Miral to oversee the destination management strategies of Saadiyat Island.

The appointment aims to establish a new benchmark for destination management, with Miral shaping a compelling visitor proposition.

Spanning 27 sq km, the island comprises a Beach District, Cultural District, Lagoon District and a Marina District. 

So what does the future hold for tourism in Abu Dhabi?

Yasmeen said: “The emirate is not only poising itself to further enrich its cultural offering as a premium cultural destination but also to realise greater value from inbound tourists. As Saadiyat Island sees completion of new attractions and fulfills its vision of a residential, leisure, and business destination, it can increase length of visitor stay and the economic contribution of the sector. 

“However, these developments should also be supported with other infrastructure elements such as shorter or cheaper inter-city movement of tourists as well as increasing connectivity of Abu Dhabi airports, price competitiveness on supporting travel components such as airfare or partnerships across the travel value chain not only at country level but also regional and global.”

Car, Automobile, Vehicle
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi is among Saadiyat Island’s tourist attractions

Top 10 things to do in Abu Dhabi, according to TripAdvisor

  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre
  • Louvre Abu Dhabi
  • Emirates Palace
  • Yas Marina Circuit
  • Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi
  • Abu Dhabi Corniche
  • Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
  • Qasr Al Watan
  • Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi
  • Yas Mall