Al Ain and Sir Bani Yas Island to feature in Abu Dhabi's tourism push

Abu Dhabi will position itself as an archaeological, adventure and shopping destination, according to its tourism chief, as it seeks to boost visitor numbers to the emirate.

Abu Dhabi is one of the world’s best-kept secrets, said Mohamed Al Mubarak, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).

“We are going to do a much better job in redefining Abu Dhabi to the world,” he told The National. “The majority of the world does not know what Abu Dhabi can offer. That’s all going to change.”

Marketing efforts will promote the emirate’s various possibilities, from kayaking in the Eastern Mangroves and frolicking on the beaches of Saadiyat to roaming the Al Ain museums and exploring archaeological remains on Sir Bani Yas Island, as well as visiting its Yas Island theme parks and shopping at its growing number of malls.

The emirate’s tourism agency also expects to wrap into its marketing activities the rash of new attractions coming up in the next five years, which includes the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a Warner Brothers theme park and shopping malls on Al Reem and Al Maryah islands.

TCA Abu Dhabi will promote Al Ain as the top heritage site in the Arabian Gulf, along with the wetlands in Abu Dhabi and archaeological sites dating back 10,000 years on Sir Bani Yas Island.

Rashid Aboobacker, the associate director at TRI Consulting in Dubai, said Abu Dhabi has strong potential to achieve a niche position because it has a variety of unique experiences to offer to tourists.

“We expect the emirate to attract a growing number of tourists in the future, particularly families from [the Gulf] and Asian countries,” he said.

Mr Al Mubarak, who is also the chief executive of the developer Aldar, took over the helm at TCA Abu Dhabi in August last year, and said he asked his team to focus on highlighting the many sights the emirate has to offer. “To be honest with you, I got a bit annoyed and tired of hearing from people from all over [that] there’s not much to do in Abu Dhabi,” he said. “[People say] spend a couple of hours in Abu Dhabi [when you come to the UAE] but spend most of your time in Dubai – I was annoyed in that regard. You need to spend just as much time in Abu Dhabi as you do Dubai, given the number of things to do.”

Abu Dhabi received 4.1 million tourists last year, up 18 per cent on the previous year. It is yet to announce its visitor target for this year.

Visitors from India, Saudi Arabia and the UK form the majority.

Albert Dias, the co-founder and chief technology officer of Sharjah’s online travel portal, said the emirate’s efforts will pay off with Indian tourists in particular.

“Although Abu Dhabi has made a commendable effort in positioning itself as the more authentic emirate, it has yet to capture the imagination of India’s burgeoning middle class,” Mr Dias said. “Most Indian tourists tend to look for an extravagant and culturally accommodating escape when they think of a holiday in the Emirates.

“We believe that Abu Dhabi’s efforts will pay off over time as India’s tourists mature from status-seekers to explorers.”

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