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Abu Dhabi’s Ambitious 2023 Roadmap Focuses on Culture to Boost Tourism


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Abu Dhabi acknowledges that culture serves as a unique and compelling attraction that sets it apart from other destinations, helping the emirate to attract tourists seeking authentic cultural experiences.

— Peden Doma Bhutia

The Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi has announced its growth roadmap for 2023, aiming to promote and advance the culture and tourism sectors in Abu Dhabi. The emirate plans to attract over 24 million visitors in 2023, an increase from 18 million in the previous year.

To achieve this, Experience Abu Dhabi, the destination brand of DCT Abu Dhabi, will launch 22 creative campaigns targeting more than 40 international markets. These campaigns include market-specific initiatives, such as an Arabic-first campaign video for the GCC featuring Egyptian actors Ahmed Helmy and Mona Zaki, and a two-year brand ambassadorship with Bollywood star Ranveer Singh to engage Indian audiences.

Abu Dhabi’s appeal as a year-round tourism destination will be highlighted through the promotion of diverse experiences, including the cultural oasis of Al Ain. The Abu Dhabi Calendar will showcase a variety of events and experiences, collaborating with global partners such as Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), NBA, and Formula 1, as well as hosting retail festivals and culinary events.

DCT Abu Dhabi said that its efforts in 2022 resulted in a significant growth in visitor numbers, with 18 million visitors recorded, a 17% increase from the previous year. The department’s initiatives included exhibitions, arts programs, and cultural festivals that attracted over 245,000 students.

In terms of tourism, Abu Dhabi achieved a hotel occupancy rate of over 70% in 2022, surpassing the Middle East average. The number of overnight hotel guests increased by 24% to 4.1 million compared to 2021, resulting in an 18% year-on-year increase in revenue per available room. Additionally, the emirate hosted over 600,000 MICE visitors and 1,210 MICE events in 2022.

Visitors from Saudi Arabia to Al-Medinah preferred staying in hotels near the Prophet’s Mosque, according to a study conducted by global market research and technology provider Toluna. The study on visitor preferences and spending habits in Al-Madinah, focused on travelers from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia.

UAE visitors showed a higher preference for accommodation close to transportation hubs, according to the study. Rental cars were popular among UAE visitors, while visitors from Saudi Arabia preferred using their private vehicles or public transportation.

The study also revealed that a substantial portion of respondents expressed a desire to visit Al-Madinah twice a year. Shedding light on how many days visitors need to explore the city, the study revealed that three, five or seven days are the top-ranking answers for visitors from both UAE and Saudi Arabia. However, for the majority of UAE visitors (24 percent) a 7-day visit is the ideal period whereas 23 percent of visitors from Saudi Arabia think the sweet spot is five days.

Abu Dhabi Airport Expects 900,000 Passengers During Eid Break

Abu Dhabi Airports issued its projected passenger figures in anticipation of an increase in traffic at Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH), before and during Eid Al Adha. Between June 23 and July 7, Abu Dhabi Airports estimates over 900,000 passengers will pass through the airport, with over 5,000 flights across 109 destinations in 59 countries. The airport also expects that June 24, June 25 and July 2 will be the busiest days. The owner and operators of the emirate’s five airports expect to serve almost 65,000 passengers on these dates, according to a press statement.

Saudi Arabia Sets Sights on Tourism Supremacy, Ready to Copy France

Saudi Arabia wants to triple the contribution to the economy of its tourism industry by 2030. The goal is to attract 100 million tourists by 2030, comparable to France’s tourism numbers. Speaking at the French-Saudi Investment Forum, Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Tourism, Ahmed Al Khateeb, highlighted the opportunity for Saudi Arabia to reach France’s level of contribution to the economy from tourism.

While Saudi Arabia has seen success since 2019, with increasing international tourist arrivals and improved rankings, it aims to further grow its tourism sector. The country aims to create cultural destinations, showcasing its rich heritage, UNESCO sites, and natural attractions like the Red Sea coast and mountains. Additionally, plans are underway to build a Saudi version of the Champs-Élysées boulevard as part of the Diriyah Gate giga-project, emphasizing the country’s aspirations to offer diverse experiences to global travelers.

Fragomen Launches Business Traveler Offering in UAE

Fragomen, a provider of immigration services, has launched its business traveler offering, Nomadic, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Nomadic looks to provide solutions for short-term immigration programs and compliance needs, catering to the growing demand for efficient and innovative tools in business travel. The Middle East region, including the UAE, is experiencing a robust recovery in business travel, surpassing other regions globally, according to the Global Business Travel Association.

In the UAE alone, the number of visitors during the first half of 2022 was nearly triple the number recorded in first half of 2021. Fragomen’s expansion into the UAE aligns with its growth strategy and aims to enhance its service offerings in the market. As the UAE and other regional business hubs attract global talent and entrepreneurs, Fragomen has said it aims to provide customized solutions for both corporate clients and individuals.

Jumeirah Group Enhances Luxury Wellness Offering with Appointment of Vice President for Wellbeing

Jumeirah Group has appointed Niamh O’Connell as its first vice president of wellbeing, group and corporate, as part of its efforts to enhance the wellness experience for luxury travelers. With almost 30 years of experience in luxury wellness and hospitality across various regions, O’Connell will collaborate with Jumeirah Group’s hotel and operations teams to develop a comprehensive wellbeing strategy. This strategy will cover spa services, fitness programs, longevity initiatives, therapies, holistic wellness, branding, design, and programming.

The CEO of Jumeirah Group, Katerina Giannouka, highlighted the evolving relationship between guests and wellbeing. “This is a new role we deemed essential as we begin to invest strongly in advancing our wellbeing offering through new concepts, therapies and partnerships, designed to enrich the life and wellness experience of our guests while staying at Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts,” Giannouka said. O’Connell said she aims to inspire a new approach to wellbeing across Jumeirah’s hotels and resorts, focusing on lifelong learning, longevity, and inclusivity.

Salam Air Adds Fujairah as a Destination

Omani low-cost carrier SalamAir is expanding its network by adding UAE’s Fujairah as a new destination. Starting July 12, the airline will operate four weekly flights to Fujairah on Mondays and Wednesdays. This addition responds to the increasing demand for affordable air travel options among both leisure and business travelers. Fujairah joins SalamAir’s list of 39 destinations across 13 countries. Mohamed Ahmed, the airline’s CEO expressed enthusiasm for the new route, highlighting the convenient connections it offers to other sought-after destinations. The expansion of its network not only meets the demand for affordable travel but also contributes to job creation and business opportunities in Oman, the airline said in a release.

Sardinia Eyes UAE Tourism Market 

Italian island Sardinia has announced that FlyDubai will operate flights from Dubai to Olbia on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. This move aims to enhance tourism flow from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Sardinia. The direct route offers return fares starting at 2,600 AED and allows UAE citizens to stay in Italy visa-free for up to 90 days. Sardinia seeks to build closer ties between the two countries, showcasing its outdoor activities, cultural experiences, and gastronomic tours. Italy, a popular summer destination for UAE tourists, sees 2.47 million visitors from the country annually. With COP28 coming to the UAE later this year, Sardinia is investing heavily in sustainable development to highlight its ‘eco-tourism’ approach.

Shurooq Redefines Luxury Hospitality in Sharjah

The Sharjah Investment and Development Authority (Shurooq) has unveiled The Serai Wing, Bait Khalid Bin Ibrahim, an exclusive addition to its luxury hospitality portfolio. The project expands upon The Chedi Al Bait, Sharjah and combines heritage and culture to offer a unique historical and tourist experience, a release from Shurooq stated.

The 12-key boutique wing is housed in a meticulously restored 20th-century pearl merchant’s family home in the heart of Sharjah district, featuring private pools and outdoor seating areas. The project aligns with Shurooq’s vision of reinforcing Sharjah’s position as a premier travel and luxury hospitality destination, celebrating the rich heritage of the region.

“Visitors from the UAE and the wider region are welcome to our new addition, which provides them with an opportunity to explore the history and aesthetics of the Heart of Sharjah,” said Ahmed Obaid Al Qaseer, CEO of Shurooq.

Red Sea Global Announces Al-Ahli Saudi Football Club Sponsorship Deal

Red Sea Global (RSG), the developer of tourism destinations Amaala and The Red Sea, has signed a sponsorship deal with Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ahli Football Club. As the platinum sponsor, the developer’s logo will be displayed on the players’ jerseys during local and global competitions, offering commercial and marketing advantages.

The sponsorship aligns with Red Sea Global’s social responsibility and commitment to promoting sports initiatives while contributing to the sustainability of the sports sector in Saudi Arabia, a release from the developer states. Al-Ahli FC, with its long history and strong fan base, is seen as a key partner in shaping the present and future of the country. The Red Sea destination, which includes resorts, an international airport, hotels, residential properties, marinas, and leisure facilities, is set for gradual completion by 2030. Three resorts at The Red Sea will open this year along with the first phase of the Red Sea International Airport. A further 13 hotels will open in 2024.

Jordan Airport Welcomes TUS Airways’ Inaugural Flight from Larnaca

Jordan’s Queen Alia International Airport has welcomed TUS Airways‘ first flight from Larnaca, Cyprus. TUS Airways will operate two weekly flights between Amman and Larnaca on Tuesdays and Fridays. The addition of TUS Airways to Queen Alia Airport’s airline network is part of the airport’s efforts to expand its routes and meet passenger needs.

Nicolas Claude, CEO of Airport International Group, expressed excitement about the new travel option, emphasizing the airport’s commitment to offering a welcoming experience for passengers. Philip Saunders, the chief commercial officer of TUS Airways, expressed enthusiasm for the introduction of flights between Amman and Larnaca, emphasizing the significance of this destination for their network. He expressed confidence that this new service will enhance the tourism and trade connections between Jordan and Cyprus while providing customers with a cost-effective travel option between the two countries.

Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal Launches On-Site Vertical Farm

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal has introduced an innovative on-site vertical farm, showcasing its commitment to sustainability and farm-to-table dining. Led by General Manager Christian Hoehn and Executive Chef Vitaly Medvedev, the project emphasizes locally sourced ingredients and fresh, flavorful cuisine, a release from the hotel stated.

The vertical farm not only looks to ensure the availability of exceptionally fresh produce but also aims to reduce the carbon footprint associated with ingredient transportation. By nurturing a sustainable ecosystem within the hotel, this initiative leads the industry in responsible sourcing, a release from the hotel stated.

“Our vertical farm is the first step in the right direction, allowing us to be pioneers within our industry. We can now deliver incredibly fresh products from our garden directly to the table within a matter of hours,” chef Medvedev shared. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal aims to set an example for the industry and encourages widespread adoption of sustainable practices.

Photo Credit: Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi.


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