Grim global economic forecasts, the pandemic and conflicts in eastern Europe over the preceding months notwithstanding, the UAE’s tourism sector has remained resolutely at the top of its game. As recently as last month, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched the UAE Tourism Strategy 2031 under its ambitious ‘Projects of the 50’ programme. The strategy aims to attract Dhs100 billion in additional tourism investments and welcome 40 million hotel guests by 2031, while striving to raise the sector’s contribution to Dhs450 billion of the national GDP.
All the emirates are working on robust strategies to ensure that these figures are attainable. The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), for example, said that in the first half of this year, its hotels received 1.84 million visitors, an increase of 22 per cent year-on-year. In Abu Dhabi, areas across the emirate are being developed at a rapid pace, among them being Saadiyat Island which is a mixed-used development with hospitality, tourism and cultural attractions that appeal to a wide audience.
Saadiyat Island is forecasted to attract 19 million visitors and contribute Dhs4.2 billion in direct tourism revenue by 2025, thereby playing a pivotal role in the country’s overall tourism ecosystem. At the Arabian Travel Market 2022 earlier this year, DCT Abu Dhabi and Miral, which creates immersive destination experiences in Abu Dhabi, unveiled the Saadiyat Vision 2025.
Spread across 2,500 square hectares, there are plenty of projects around culture, hospitality, education and conservation that have in turn made the destination particularly appealing. The first international outpost of the Louvre opened on the island in 2017. For culture enthusiasts, there are three other world-class museums set to open over the coming years: Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum. For those who want more immediate gratification on the arts scene, they can visit Manarat Al Saadiyat in the Saadiyat Cultural District which hosts exhibitions and community-oriented events.
Close to Manarat Al Saadiyat is Berklee Abu Dhabi – the international wing of the prestigious music college based in Boston, Massachusetts. Apart from Berklee, another outstanding college instructing on liberal arts and science academic programmes on Saadiyat itself is the New York University Abu Dhabi.
Meanwhile, playing a vital role in Saadiyat Vision 2025, is the island’s hospitality industry. Six hospitality majors have significant properties here. The 306-key Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas has 23 suites and 18 villas; St Regis Saadiyat Island Resort Abu Dhabi is famous for its bespoke butler service; Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort strives consistently for sustainable practices in its operations; seven dining options shine through the Saadiyat Rotana Resort and Villas; the Rixos Premium Saadiyat Island became the first all-inclusive hotel in Abu Dhabi; and the Nurai Island is a boutique private island resort that features 42 villas.
With a strong overarching focus on conservation, Saadiyat’s ecosystem of protected wildlife and marine life includes endangered hawksbill turtles, bottlenose dolphins and humpback, the native Arabian gazelle and more than 300 species of birds.
For those searching for vibrant and lifestyle-driven experiences on the island, they only need to consider one of the several beach clubs including Saadiyat Beach Club, Soul Beach and Kai Beach. The Saadiyat Beach Golf Club features the region’s first ocean course, while the Mamsha Al Saadiyat community has top-notch dining, entertainment and shopping outlets.
There’s much more to come at Saadiyat Island. The Abrahamic Family House consisting of a mosque, a synagogue and a church will become a beacon for interfaith dialogue when it opens, while the 17,000sqm teamLab Phenomena Abu Dhabi set to be operational by 2024 will showcase an immersive multi-sensory experience where science, technology, nature and art will intersect. Come 2025, the anticipated 19 million visitors to Saadiyat Island won’t leave the island before finding exactly what they came looking for – no matter how wide the brief.