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Abu Dhabi looks for tourism gold in China

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ABU DHABI (August 25, 2008) – Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), the apex body which manages the tourism industry in the Arabian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi, has opened offices in three key cities in C

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ABU DHABI (August 25, 2008) – Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), the apex body which manages the tourism industry in the Arabian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi, has opened offices in three key cities in China looking to capitalize on the growing outbound market, which, according to the UN World Travel Organization, will be the world’s biggest by 2020.

The ADTA’s new offices are in the Chinese capital Beijing and the country’s largest and third-largest most populous cities Shanghai and Guangzhou. Peter Phang, one of China’s leading experts on outbound travel has been appointed ADTA’s country manager, China and will oversee the authority’s activities throughout the vast nation.

“A number of prevailing factors led us to prioritize China in our five-year overseas promotion strategy, including the sheer size of the outbound Chinese market, the propensity of the Chinese tourist for culture and the substantial air links between Beijing and Abu Dhabi,” said Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general, ADTA.

“Chinese government figures prove the republic is now the largest outbound market in Asia with Chinese travelers accounting for 40.95 million overseas trips last year, which was an 18.6% rise on the previous year. This is estimated to rise to a staggering 100 international trips by 2020 when Abu Dhabi will be counted among one of the world’s leading cultural destinations.

“We have to get into this vast market now, build destination awareness and prepare our audience well in advance of the opening in Abu Dhabi of some of the world’s leading cultural institutions.”

Saadiyat Island, a natural island 500 meters offshore the UAE capital is to be home to the world’s largest single concentration of premier cultural institutions. The five major museums, art galleries and a performing arts center will include the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi Museum – the world’s largest Guggenheim museum – and the Louvre Abu Dhabi – the only Louvre outside of France. Both are expected to open in 2012/2013.

ADTA’s Promotions Division is now looking to seal closer ties with the 930 travel agencies which operate within China.

“Through familiarization trips, regular trade workshops and by working closely with the UAE embassy in China, we hope to facilitate the start of group leisure travel from China,” said Ali Al Hosani, director promotions, ADTA.

China will now play a key role in ADTA’s expanding industry and media familiarization program, which educates key influencers on the destination and aims to attract 2.7 million hotel guests annually by 2012 – up from 1.45 million last year.

“Already in the first six months of this year, our familiarization program has outstripped that of the whole of last year by over 50%,” explained Al Hosani. “To date we have received 46 industry and media delegations this year. This has delivered a substantial improvement in the number of overseas tour operators who feature Abu Dhabi in their brochures and greater destination knowledge among travel agents and the general public.”

ADTA believes Abu Dhabi, which aims to become a global destination of cultural distinction, will resonate well with the Chinese tourist with research showing they have a strong appetite for culture.

“Recent participation in travel shows in Hong Kong and China has demonstrated that the interest is there; we now have to build on it and quickly, as there is increasing competition for the Chinese tourist,” said Al Hosani.

“As China is also now a world-leading manufacturing powerhouse, we will also be looking to increase awareness of Abu Dhabi as a business tourism destination and highlight the significant opportunities open to Chinese businesses via the trade shows now hosted at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center.”

Currently, there are fairly strong air links between Beijing and Abu Dhabi with Etihad Airways – the national airline of the UAE – operating non-stop services four times a week.

China has become the fifth country in the ADTA’s overseas office network, which already comprises the UK, Germany, France and Australia. An office in Italy is expected to open before the end of this year.

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Editor in chief is Linda Hohnholz.