Abu Dhabi Aiming For Chinese Tourism Boost

Chinese Guest Nights In Abu Dhabi Hit 39,047 In First 3 Quarters Of Year

Shangri-La Abu Dhabi

As in nearby Dubai, hotel and tour operators in Abu Dhabi are rolling out the red carpet to attract more Chinese outbound tourists. With 21,530 Chinese guests staying in the city — the most populous in the UAE — in the first nine months of 2012, a 78 percent increase year-on-year, Abu Dhabi tourism officials are optimistic that growing interest by Chinese tour groups means they’ll continue to see a rising tide of free-spending visitors, particularly around key Chinese holiday periods.

To build on its current momentum, Abu Dhabi is set to send a delegation to Shanghai made up of tour operators, hotels and resorts, Etihad Airways and Ferrari World Abu Dhabi.

As Mubarak Al Nuaimi, international promotions manager, TCA Abu Dhabi, pointed out this week, one of the main goals of tourism authorities in Abu Dhabi is to increase the length of Chinese stays in the city, which currently sit at a meager 1.8. Said Al Nuaimi, “Apart from making the necessary contacts to build the number of Chinese guest arrivals our task ahead is to convince the market that there is now much more to see and do in Abu Dhabi.”

Much of the city’s current China focus currently centers on communication. As Bruno Wiley of Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, said of his theme park’s charm offensive, “We are working closely with our travel trade partners locally and in China to offer a full range of creative promotional tools and collaterals in different languages, including Mandarin, to help Chinese tour groups better understand what to expect during their visit.”

Jumeirah's Burj al Arab in Dubai illuminated its famous "sail" for the Chinese Year of the Dragon

Though Abu Dhabi continues to attract more Chinese visitors, the city has a long way to go before it can catch up to Dubai in terms of bringing in more high-end tourists. Notorious for scrimping on accommodations while splurging on shopping, Chinese tourists in Dubai appear to be more open to shelling out for high-end hotels than in some other destinations. As China Daily pointed out earlier this year, the most popular hotels in Dubai among Chinese outbound tourists are the seven-star hotel Burj Al Arab (where 30 percent of guests in the first three months of this year were Chinese), the 1537-room luxury resort Atlantis The Palm and the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel.

According to Yasmine Hidalgo, PR manager at the Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, Chinese guests make up the third-largest contingent at her hotel, adding that Chinese guests “like the proximity to the Ibn Battuta shopping mall and of course our Chinese restaurant Shanghai Chic. Our visitors from China like the sun, beach and lifestyle of Dubai, but at the same time they also like to feel at home.” As the New York Times added this May, not only are Chinese visitors coming more often, they’re staying in Dubai longer. Citing data collected from hoteliers by the Majid Al Futtaim group, the Times noted that Chinese tourists are now spending an average of four nights in Dubai, over three nights two years ago.

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