As per the recent figures collated by Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) – Abu Dhabi, 11.35 million international visitors came to Abu Dhabi in 2019, a 10.5 per cent increase on 2018. As far as the Indian market is concerned, an impressive growth of 8.8 per cent was witnessed during this period.
Business Traveller India speaks to Ali Hassan Al Shaiba, executive director of Tourism and Marketing, DCT Abu Dhabi for an insight on upcoming plans and strategies being adopted by the UAE capital to strengthen its ties with India, from the travel and tourism perspective.
Luxury, lavish accommodation, adventure and an expansive F&B are few aspects that are synonymous with Abu Dhabi. But what more is the destination offering now to discerning travellers from across the globe and especially India?
The term luxury is granted to the quality of life that we have in Abu Dhabi, and this is what we are offering — an enhanced lifestyle, impeccable service and state-of-the-art infrastructure. This is how we define Abu Dhabi. Besides, the emirate has something for everyone. From family to couples and business travellers, the destination is packed with bespoke experiences for every kind of traveller. Having said that, we are also looking at increasing our offerings and services; and market it in such a way that we are always in the face of the consumer as a leading tourist spot.
In January this year, UAE announced five year tourist visa for all nationalities. Apart from giving a major boost to the tourist arrival numbers, which other avenue does this regime open?
I think apart from tourism, it is a great opportunity for people looking for jobs. The new visa policy paves way for entrepreneurs and students to explore new things and get in touch with industry leaders to understand new technology. We have also created many business incubators for people to come and start business in the UAE. In Abu Dhabi, we have set up Hub71, a business ecosystem that is helping startups to grow. We are also working closely with them to develop new features for the travel industry.
What are the efforts being taken to increase frequency or expand connectivity between India and Abu Dhabi?
You might have heard about Air Arabia and Etihad introducing a new airline called Air Arabia Abu Dhabi. The launch of this new carrier will definitely increase capacity and connectivity options between Abu Dhabi and India. Through such partnerships, we are aiming to get into Tier II and III cities in India and target more segments. Along with this, we intend to establish Abu Dhabi as a preferred stopover destination for those making a trip to the West. We are monitoring the traffic and demand coming from India, and therefore are in frequent talks with Etihad and our aviation committee as well. Along with our flag carrier, we are also discussing opportunities with Indian airlines to see connectivity between the two destinations can be expanded.
What are the new maritime initiatives adopted by Abu Dhabi to attract more global tourists?
The cruise tourism has shown a tremendous growth in the last few years. This year, we had around 46 per cent growth in the cruise sector. There are 200 islands in Abu Dhabi and that makes it a unique destination. Maritime initiatives constitute as one of the main verticals in our tourism industry. Last year we announced the maritime plan for Abu Dhabi and are working with our partners and transport authorities to identify new waterways where cruise can travel; and jet boats can take passengers from one island to the other. Adding to this, we are equipping these islands with eco-tourism accommodation, so people can stay over for a night, do camping or go for day trips. We recently announced a new jetty being built for cruises in Sir Bani Yas. Overall, I think maritime will show a noteworthy growth in the coming years.