Abu Dhabi is rolling out a whole new look at Arabian Travel Market (ATM) – the region’s biggest travel and tourism fair which runs in Dubai from May 5-8 – in a bid to capture the increasing attention of GCC travel influencers and maintain growing visitor numbers from its neighbouring states.
Figures just released by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) show that in Q1 of this year, hotel guest arrivals from the GCC, with the exception of the UAE, rose 30% on the first three months of 2013 to 58,698. The GCC guests delivered 131,416 guest nights during Q1 – a 29% uplift on last year and stayed, on average, 2.24 nights.
“All five of our GCC neighbours delivered double-digit growth for our hospitality industry in Q1 with Saudi Arabia accounting for the lion’s share and which now ranks as our seventh largest international source market, with Oman and Qatar also among our top 20 at 14th and 18th place respectively,” explained Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director Tourism, TCA Abu Dhabi. “Our challenge is to continue this upward trajectory and to convince GCC travellers to stay longer and explore an emirate which now offers much more to see and do.”
This year’s Abu Dhabi ATM pavilion has been designed to reflect the vibrancy of the emirate with a new-look summer season programme being one highlight.
“Slightly larger than last year and with more partners, at 48, and 85 products, we are going all out to engage the GCC travel trade with events to be packaged around, including our new-look Abu Dhabi Summer Season, new partners to forge business links with and fresh products to sell,” explained Al Dhaheri.
“We are intent on intensifying our efforts to build destination awareness of our product within the GCC and to get across the message that there are valid reasons for staying longer in the emirate where our partners are providing exceptional facilities and services at highly affordable prices. Our current average room rate is US $133 which represents great value for money when judged alongside the standard of offering.”
The new stand will highlight the revamped Abu Dhabi Summer Season, which will run from June 5-August 31 and will be the destination’s most dynamic, fun and show-packed summer to date with events including headline concerts and international show performances.
Abu Dhabi’s ATM pavilion features an array of exhibitors representing hotels, attractions, major events, travel agents and tour operators.
“We know of three major hospitality groups that will be launching brand new resorts at ATM – one of which is a destination newcomer, another a new brand,” explained Al Dhaheri. “In addition our stakeholders are responding to demand by tailor-making products specifically for the GCC traveller and families in particular.”
Jannah Hotels & Resorts, which entered the UAE capital early last year with its Eastern Mangroves Suites by Jannah, believes hotel apartments strike a particular cord with the GCC visitor.
“Our new brand Andalus Hotels & Resorts will open its first property in the third quarter of this year offering four-star hotel suites in a beautiful resort setting in the heart of Abu Dhabi city,” explained Kathrin Reinthaler, Jannah’s Worldwide Marketing Director. “We opened our first property at the end of the third quarter of last year, however, within this short time Eastern Mangroves Suites by Jannah has received growing demand especially from the GCC market. Our goal for this year is to become an important player in the GCC markets.
“Our suites are perfectly designed for the needs of families from the GCC market, offering more space and living areas than a usual hotel room, a kitchen and big outdoor living areas. These features, combined with our Karim services, are very much welcomed by guests from the Gulf region.”
Leisure, corporate and MICE business is the key focus for Abu Dhabi at this year’s ATM. The iconic Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi – the only hotel in the world to straddle a Formula ® race track – says it’s looking to the region to help achieve a 25% uplift in business on last year.
The five-star, beachfront Jumeirah at Etihad Towers is weighing into the seasonal campaign with its own ‘Summer Sensations’ package for GCC nationals to be announced at ATM and featuring room rate discounts and added-value benefits.
The hotel says it had an “exceptionally positive 2013 despite increased competition from newly-opened five star properties” with a major uplift in GCC arrivals. “We had a 108% increase in room nights from GCC nationals and residents choosing to stay at the hotel compared to 2012,” said Doris Greif, General Manager.
In addition to room nights, the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers’ Conference Centre also saw increased demand both internationally and regionally.
“A total of 708 events were held at our flagship property in the UAE capital resulting in a 63% increase compared to the number of events held in 2012,” said Greif. Last year was also the property’s most successful to date in terms of awards received with the hotel scooping honours including being named the ‘Middle East’s Leading Hotel’ in the World Travel Awards.
“Our goals for 2014 are to continue the momentum of success achieved in 2013 through innovation, new experiences for guests and a dedication in achieving results for our stakeholders,” explained Greif. “To date we continue the path of success, with first quarter room nights in 2013 posting a 131% increase on 2013.”
At the show stakeholders will be announcing new hospitality products with Anantara readying to unveil a key development at its award-winning Qasr Al Sarab desert resort in the Liwa Desert. The product development is expected to boost the company’s MICE and GCC appeal.
“From the MICE Market for all our Abu Dhabi properties we are targeting a 15-20% growth to help build occupancy,” said David Garner, Area Director Sales & Marketing, Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas.
“We receive about 50% of our total business revenue from within the UAE and GCC markets so it is our most valuable market. We expect strong support again in 2014 when we expect the market to grow exponentially. Demand from the GCC has been present in the last few years but very few venues were adequate to welcome these events. We are looking for meeting and corporate groups for weekdays. We are looking to increase this segment for about 30% in 2014 due to the new Qasr Al Sarab facility.”
The Abu Dhabi headquartered Cristal Group is looking to win over additional GCC business after its Cristal Hotel Abu Dhabi and Cristal Salam Hotel received the 2014 Travelers’ Choice Award for Tripadvisors’ Top 25 Best Hotel and Best Bargain Hotel categories.
And with the GCC business visitor spending US $449 per day/night in Abu Dhabi, according to TCA Abu Dhabi’s latest Destination Visitor Survey, the MICE sector is also under the spotlight for the five-star Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi which is planning to add customised industry event packages to its offerings.
“These will include revised food and beverage menus incorporating both Arabic and Thai cuisines, flexible meetings and event arrangements to suit the growing MICE market and requests we encounter throughout the year,” said Aaishah Boharei, Director of Sales & Marketing.
The Dusit Thani Abu Dhabi has recently launched a brunch stay package available on weekends only and a Spa Escape package which includes a stay and spa treatment.
“Our plan is at ATM to showcase our extensive MICE facilities complimented by our Thai hospitality and create market awareness. In general, our personalized packages are customized and combined in such a way that they are adapted to our clients’ and market needs. Knowing the growing demand within the local Gulf region, as well as its specific business patterns, we are mostly targeting local pharmaceutical groups, corporate meetings and national day celebrations. Our Gulf packages include providing flexible meeting venues, complemented with the latest audio-visual equipment, in addition to an array of food and beverage options to suit local and international preferences,” added Bohari.
The Millennium Hotel Abu Dhabi is looking to this year increase its corporate business by 15% and group business by 10%. It’s now targeting the GCC with special packages which includes link up with Yas Waterworld and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi offerings.
Meanwhile, Planet Travels & Tours will use ATM to announce the enhancement of its B2B reservation system which will have new features including a secure payment gateway for credit card payments. The group is planning to launch a supplier intranet to increase last minute availability for its customers.
And the landmark Emirates Palace – one of the world’s most opulent hotels – says it’s hoping to build on its best-ever performance in 2013. “It was a record year for Emirates Palace in terms of revenue and occupancy levels with a 20% increase in room revenues compared to 2012,” explained Linda Steeger, the hotel’s Director of Sales & Marketing.
Danat Hotels & Resorts, a division of the National Corporation for Tourism & Hotels, will be showcasing a range of developments at its properties emirate-wide. These include the renovation of an all-day dining restaurant at Danat Al Ain Resort, the renovation of three floors in the Sands Hotel Abu Dhabi, the full renovation of 100 rooms at its Dhafra Beach Hotel and the doubling of its room inventory and the addition of 24 chalets, three restaurants and more health club facilities for its Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort.
Al Forsan International Sports Resort will be promoting its soon-to-open Motorsport Off Road Track and special tailor-made packages, inclusive of ground support and hotel accommodation, for GCC visitors.
Meanwhile, Al Diar Hotels, a division of Abu Dhabi National Hotels, is to unveil a new hotel apartment property it’s to launch in Abu Dhabi with the GCC traveler in mind.
“The highest percentage of our guests is from the GCC so we definitely need to focus on them,” said Fadi Ibrahim, Al Diar Hotels’ Director of Sales and Marketing. “The UAE is considered the safest place to travel regionally either for business or for leisure, as well as the place that offers the most promising business in the region, which is perfect for travellers from the GCC.”
In Abu Dhabi’s heritage heartland of Al Ain, plans are afoot by the Al Ain Zoo to open its Sheikh Zayed Desert Learning Centre which will feature educational exhibits that celebrate the wildlife and traditions of the desert, celebrate the conservation heritage of the late UAE Founder and President Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan and help chart a sustainable future for desert living.
“Al Ain Zoo is transforming the area around the existing zoo into a new institution dedicated to exhibiting, interpreting and conserving desert wildlife,” explained HE Ghanim Mubarak Al Hajeri, Director General, Al Ain Zoo. “This sustainable leisure and learning destination, called Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort will provide an extraordinary opportunity for visitors to explore and learn about the desert world and experience a world-class tourist destination.”
The Abu Dhabi pavilion will also give visitors a chance to engage with the emirate’s heritage with the opportunity to have their photo taken with a falconer, to taste authentic Emirati coffee and food and listen to the poetic sounds traditional string instrument – the Rababah – being played.
“A visit to the stand will be an experience in itself and set the tone of the destination,” added Al Dhaheri.
Amena Abdulla Khoori
Marketing Communication Executive | Marketing and Communications Sector
Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi)
D. +971 2 4181395