ABU DHABI, UAE – The Arabian Gulf emirate of Abu Dhabi is to sharpen its focus on the outbound Asian travel market as arrivals from the continent record a double-digit lift in the first eight months of this year.
Figures from Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) say the number of Asian travellers checking into the emirate’s 146 hotels and hotel apartments from January to August rose 26% on the same 2012 period with growth being primarily driven by a 40% upsurge in Chinese arrivals. In all, some 313,221 Asians checked into Abu Dhabi accommodation in the first eight months delivering over a million guest nights – which was up 34% on 2012.
China and South Korea currently rank among Abu Dhabi’s top 25 international source markets with 27,378 Chinese staying in the emirate’s hotels in the first eight months of this year, delivering 50,246 guest nights – a 43% year-on-year increase. Some 9,879 South Koreans stayed in Abu Dhabi accommodation over the same period – a rise of 27% on 2012 and delivering some 25,712 guest nights, which was up 45%. Japanese guests, meanwhile, grew 16% in the first eight months of this year compared to last to last year to 8,158 and delivered a 13% uptake in guest nights to 24,680.
Now the authority and its key industry stakeholders are looking to hone the momentum with a seven-strong delegation participation at ITB Asia which runs in Singapore from October 23-26.
“Our participation will be dual-pronged targeting both the leisure and business tourism segments,” explained Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director Promotions & Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi. “On the leisure front we will be out to get the message across that there is now so much to do and see in Abu Dhabi given a strong surge in our hotel and resort portfolio, the opening of new attractions, including stunning malls selling at tax-free prices and a powerful line-up of major sporting and entertainment events. We also want to correctly position the destination as a luxury yet highly affordable choice where the average room rate is currently running at just under US $120. Currently Asian guests are staying with us, on average, for just over three nights and we’d like to see this increase and now have the product base to make it happen.
“We have a particular challenge with the length-of-stay of Chinese guests – which is currently less than two nights and we are working closely with our stakeholders to provide specific tailored product for these guests. South Koreans stay longer – they’re particularly fond of our expansive and diverse golf offering. Golf is proving productive for us with figures revealing that our trio of world-class, championship-ready golf courses hosted a record number of overseas rounds in Q1 this year.”
The figures show Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and Yas Links recorded their best-ever quarterly overseas rounds returns during Q1 this year, with 9,215 overseas rounds ensuring 89% growth on the comparative three-month period last year.
Having amassed 20% of the UAE’s overseas rounds January-through-March last year, Abu Dhabi’s three championship-ready clubs’ quarterly contribution this year constitutes almost a third of the nationwide total. With other emirates suffering marginal dips or gains, Abu Dhabi’s sterling Q1 performance ensured the number of overseas rounds played across the country was 90% up on the corresponding period last year.
Major players in Asia’s highly-lucrative golf tourism sector praised Abu Dhabi’s success in attracting Asian golf tourists at the 2nd Annual Golf Tourism Convention – an annual trade event founded by the International Association Golf of Tour Operators – in Pattaya, Thailand.
“We are hearing great reports from the clients we are sending to Abu Dhabi,” said Kevin Wang, Vice General Manager, Grand Tours, one of China’s biggest outbound golf tourism specialists. “These word-of-mouth endorsements are making Abu Dhabi an even easier sell for us and I expect the emirate’s popularity to continue rising. I foresee sending ever-larger volumes of Asian golf travellers to Abu Dhabi over coming seasons.”
According to the annual KPMG Golf Travel Insights Study, the UAE capital is muscling increased revenue from a global industry worth US $2billion in 2012. Spearheading the emirate’s drive is Golf in Abu Dhabi – an initiative designed to execute the emirate’s golf tourism strategy, maximise revenue returns for related stakeholders and position Abu Dhabi in the minds of potential golf customers from primary source markets such as the UK, Ireland, France, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, China, Korea and Japan.
With some 2,105 registered operators from 91 countries, IAGTO’s members control over 85% of all golf holiday packages sold worldwide and generate annual turnover well in excess of more than US $1.6 billion. Vitally, Abu Dhabi’s progress has caught the attention of Peter Walton, IAGTO’s Chief Executive.
“Golf in Abu Dhabi has demonstrated once again how the initiative is striking the right chord with tour operators in the Asian market,” said Walton. “Abu Dhabi is a great product, a complete product, with impressive ambition and it is encouraging to see successful results coming from its golf tourism sector and from key Asian territories.”
On the business tourism front, the emirate’s campaign will be led by the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, which was formed earlier this year to drive the destination’s ambition to be ranked among the world’s top 50 destinations for association meetings under the International Congress and Convention Association league within five years. Abu Dhabi was ranked among the top 100 last year.
‘We have had some successes from Asia and are now focusing on promoting our Quick Win Advantage Abu Dhabi programme for corporate meetings and incentives. We are receiving a number of enquiries from Asia, mainly from the IT and pharmaceutical sectors in India, Pakistan and Singapore,” explained Al Nuaimi.
Meanwhile, the five-star Park Hyatt Resort on Saadiyat Island says it’s planning sales trips throughout Japan, Korea and China to boost Asian awareness and arrivals for the property which is on a nine kilometer stretch of beach.
“The Asian market is growing in Abu Dhabi and we would like to have a share of it,” said Salik Mangrio, the hotel’s Director of Sales & Marketing.
The luxury The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal meanwhile is working on bespoke proposals to roll out into the Asian market. The hotel, which already has Chinese-speaking ladies and gentlemen working at the property is specifically targeting incentive and leisure business from Asia.
“As The Ritz-Carlton brand is growing within Asia, we’d like guests in Asia to think about staying in The Ritz-Carlton when they travel to the Middle East,” said Lynn Gervais, the hotel’s Director of Public Relations.
Joining the Abu Dhabi promotion at ITB Asia are Yas Island – Abu Dhabi’s entertainment district and home to November’s F1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which is held at Yas Marina Circuit; the five-star, beachfront The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal; Etihad Airways, which flies; the Grand Continental Flamingo Hotel; the City Season Al Hamra Hotel and the beachfront Park Hyatt Saadiyat Island.
And TCA Abu Dhabi, which now has destination collateral in Japanese, Korean and Mandarin, is planning a Korean version of its award-winning online destination resource www.visitabudhabi.ae.
“This is in the planning pipeline for early next year,” explained Al Nuaimi. “The site is currently in Japanese and Mandarin and Korean would be our 10th language version.”