Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry heads down under to build on growing Australian links

July 21, 2014 4:01 pm

Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry is heading for Australia later this month for a three-destination road show aimed at capitalising on growing awareness in, and business from, Down Under.

A nine-strong industry delegation, led by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and including Etihad Airways, DMCs, hoteliers, tour operators and Yas Island, will be in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane from July 29-31, training retail travel agents and MICE consultants on the latest destination offerings.

The road show comes just weeks after Etihad Airways’, the national carrier of the United Arab Emirates, sealed a five-year sponsorship deal with leading Australian football team Melbourne City FC and follows the airline’s July 15th launch of daily services from Perth to Abu Dhabi.

“Our timing could not be better,” said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director Promotions and Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi. “Etihad’s new sponsorship deal and the new Perth flights will bring increasing focus on Abu Dhabi and we need to capitalise on this.

“We anticipate meeting around 350 agents and consultants from both the leisure and MICE segments including key influencers from Australia’s top retail travel chains and wholesalers and tour operators who currently contract Arabian Peninsula products.”

The road show comes as more Australians than ever check into Abu Dhabi’s hotels and hotel apartments. In the first five months of this year some 16,952 Australians stayed in the emirate’s hotels – an 8% rise on the same period last year. In all the Australians delivered 62,187 guest nights – a 15% year-on-year upswing and stayed, on average, 3.67 nights – which is up 7% on last year.

Yet industry-wide, Abu Dhabi’s tourism stakeholders believe much more can be achieved from the Australian market, particularly from the visiting friends and relative and stop-over trade.

Abu Dhabi’s entertainment destination of Yas Island says Australia represents a significant and developing share of its business.

“Yas Island is very keen to build on both the existing stop-over market and the point-to-point market from Australia,” said Clive Dwyer, Director, Yas Island Destination Management. “We are capitalising on our convenient location for long-haul travellers, whether they are seeking a memorable short break, or are here for a long stay to indulge in our unique destination offerings. We’re also planning to further tap into the visiting friends and relatives market from Australia as well as point-to-point for those looking to conduct inspiring, unconventional business events.”

Dwyer estimates around 30,000 Australians visit Yas Island per year with an average annual growth rate of 4%. “This stems from a strong interest in sporting events and activities, such as the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and the Yas Links Abu Dhabi golf course, as well as from Yas Island’s world-renowned theme parks – Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and YasWaterworld Abu Dhabi,” he said.

“We expect that the opening of Yas Mall later this year will make Yas Island even more attractive for long-haul travellers to take advantage of on their trips to Europe and other destinations.

“The significance of the Australian market to Abu Dhabi as a whole is also evident in a number of partnerships including Etihad Airway’s link with Virgin Australia and its major sponsorship of the Etihad Stadium Melbourne Australia, Sport Australia Hall of Fame and Sydney Opera House.”

Australia is now the top room night producer for Etihad’s destination management company Hala Abu Dhabi which has tailored specific stopover products for the Australian market and is to launch additional market-relevant initiatives. These include adding 24 hour hotel check in and out and a B2C booking engine on Etihad.com to facilitate stopover bookings.

The five-star, beachfront Jumeirah at Etihad Towers says it’s benefitting from being part of Etihad Airways’ complimentary stopover and hotel stay scheme.

“We have seen exceptional growth in booked room nights by Australian guests over the ast two years. In 2013, the total number results in an outstanding 426% increase compared to the total number of room nights booked by Australians in 2012. Encouraging, the positive trend is continuing with Australians booking a further 66% increase in the first five months of this year when compared to the same period last year,” said Doris Greif, General Manager.

The hotel has this year played host to a number of official Australian government and trade missions, including the recent visit of the Honourable Minister of Trade and Investment, Mr Andrew Robb as well as an incentive group from a leading car manufacturer.

“Our Australian guest mix is varied and includes both business and leisure elements, with a large number of the choosing Abu Dhabi as a stopover destination.”

DMC Arabian Adventures, which recently appointed a representation company for Australia and New Zealand, says Australia is now its top leisure source market producing a 50% increase in business this year over last with exclusive hotel deals for the Australian market including 24 hour check in and check out.

Abu Dhabi’s four star Mafraq Hotel also reports growing interest from Australia with guest numbers in the first six months of the year almost reaching its 2013 total.

“The Australian market is still fair new for us and we will focus this year and next on increasing business from both its leisure and MICE segments,” said FahimZaman, Director of Sales & Marketing.

TCA Abu Dhabi is also planning to host a mega familiarisation trip to Abu Dhabi for key Australian travel agents and professionals in October.