United Arab Emirates tourism report


Tourism Overview

Although the tourism sector had a difficult year in 2009, particularly in terms of foreign visitor arrivals, relatively strong growth in domestic tourism demand allowed the UAE to weather the storm. There was also recovery in the sector in the latter part of the year. In Abu Dhabi, the number of hotel guest arrivals rose by just 2% year-on-year (y-o-y) in 2009 but domestic tourism helped underpin the emirate’s performance. We estimate that foreign tourist arrivals declined by 10% y-o-y. In Sharjah, data for 2009 show a 6% y-o-y decline in the number of tourists staying at hotels. There are no new data on arrivals to Dubai since our last report (the latest data refer to H109), which is a surprise given the timeliness of data releases in previous years.

According to latest data, hotel occupancy rates in Dubai and Abu Dhabi declined sharply in the first 10 months of 2009, down by over 13% and 9% y-o-y respectively, although this was relatively high compared with the rest of the region. In Abu Dhabi though, guest numbers rebounded in Q409, increasing by 16% y-o-y. In Sharjah, there was a modest deterioration in the hospitality sector in 2009. The total number of occupied room nights was 1.46mn, a fall of 3% on 2008, with overall occupancy rates declining relatively sharply to 69% from 80% a year earlier – although this has to be seen in the context of additional rooms (14% more in y-o-y terms) made available throughout 2009.

Forecast Scenario

Growth estimate for tourist arrivals to the UAE in 2009 has changed very little at -4% y-o-y to 9.1mn visitors, although we await more recent data about arrivals to Dubai for H209. The poor outturn for the sector in 2009 was due to the impact of severe recession in the US and key European economies – North America and Europe together accounted for an estimated 46% of total arrivals to the UAE in 2008 – and a significant slowdown in growth in the Middle East. Relatively strong recovery in arrivals growth is anticipated in 2010, with growth picking up slightly in 2011 and 2012. These forecasts are based on economic recovery in major source markets, with the eurozone tentatively emerging from recession in 2010 and growth there anticipated to accelerate to 1.8% in 2011.

Air Arabia In the financial year ending December 2009, Air Arabia, based in Sharjah, recorded net profit of AED452mn, largely unchanged compared with 2008, and posted a turnover of AED2bn, down by 4.5% y-o-y. The airline served 4.1mn passengers, compared with 3.6mn passengers in 2008, an increase of about 14% y-o-y.

Abu Dhabi National Hotels In its financial results for 2009 (ending in December), Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH) posted net profit of AED433mn, compared with AED293mn a year earlier, a healthy increase of 48% y-o-y.