The Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. (Emirates Palace)
It looks like UAE principality Abu Dhabi’s efforts to compete with Dubai to attract wealthy Chinese tourists are seeing significant success. According to a recent report by the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, it saw a 208 percent jump in visitors from China over the first three months of this year.
A recent report in Dubai news outlet Khaleej Times notes that the benefits for businesses have been huge: 32,259 Chinese guests arrived during this time period, which meant a total of 50,253 guest nights for hotels. As a result, “Abu Dhabi’s 152 hotels and hotel apartments have had their best first-quarter ever in terms of guest numbers, guest nights and revenue.”
While Dubai has long dominated the UAE in terms of the number of Chinese tourist arrivals, Abu Dhabi’s tourism authority and businesses have made a concerted effort to catch up. For Chinese New Year, its central business district had a massive celebration complete with live musical performances, art exhibitions, traditional crafts, food, and fireworks. Meanwhile, retailers and hoteliers have also been offering special services such as Mandarin-speaking staff or traditional Chinese gifts for special holidays.
The total for the end of the year is likely to be boosted even higher by a massive delegation of employees of beauty brand Nu Skin that visited the UAE on a 10-day junket last month. With a total of 16,000 visitors, the massive trip resulted in an estimated $20 million in tourism revenue for the UAE and featured trips to both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
Dubai and the UAE have another competitor emerging—Sharjah, the third-largest emirate, is also stepping up its efforts to draw Chinese tourists. In April, representatives of Sharjah’s tourism authority traveled to Beijing to present at the China Outbound Travel and Tourism Market, and the Sharjah government plans to set up offices in major Chinese cities to promote tourism.