World class events help swell Abu Dhabi visitor numbers to record levels

Special Olympics, AFC Asian Cup, Abu Dhabi Showdown Week, Formula One and the Papal Mass all contributed to 10.5% increase in tourists

This included the Special Olympics, AFC Asian Cup, Abu Dhabi Showdown Week, Formula One and the Papal Mass. Image: ITP Media Group

A selection of the world’s best events helped Abu Dhabi record a 10.5 percent increase in tourist numbers in 2019 over the previous year.

According to figures from the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi), the number of international visitors to the UAE capital last year reached an estimated 11.35 million, including 2.83m overnight and 8.53m same-day visitors.

Saood Al Hosani, acting under-secretary at DCT Abu Dhabi, said numbers were boosted by the wide range of events hosted throughout the 12 months.

“These outstanding results were underpinned by some world-class, exceptional events presented in the UAE capital across 2019,” he said.

This included the Special Olympics, AFC Asian Cup, Abu Dhabi Showdown Week, Formula One and the Papal Mass.

Philip Wooller, STR’s area director for the Middle East and Africa, said: “The events calendar was busy with a number of high-profile events, lifting citywide hotel demand. On top of the well-established Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix in December, the city hosted the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in January, the visit of Pope Francis followed by Idex in February, UFC 242 and IREIS 2019 in September, as well as Adipec 2019 in November.”

Increased RevPAR, occupancy

Hotel guest numbers represented an increase of 2.1 percent over the previous year, while hotel occupancy was up 1.6 percent (to a rate of 73 percent), Average Length of Stay (ALOS) for 2019 was up 1.8 percent (to 2.6 nights) and total revenues increased 6.6 percent (to AED5.8 billion). ARR metrics were up 4.7 percent and RevPAR also increased across the year by 6.4 percent.

India, China, the United Kingdom and the United States remained the top four non-UAE source markets for hotel guests, with Russia, Ukraine, South Korea and Bahrain the fastest growing markets between 2017 and 2019.

According to a report from CBRE, growth in hotel occupancy can also be attributed to a number of government measures introduced last year, including a reduction in tourism, municipal and municipality hotel room fees.

The report said: “In addition, the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi launched an AED600m fund to enhance the city’s portfolio of entertainment and business events, with the aim of expanding the city’s tourism profile.”

It added that Abu Dhabi’s hospitality sector is to add an extra 9,300 keys, on top of the existing 33,000 keys accounted for in H2 2019, within the next three years.

“These 2019 results reflect the hard work and dedication that DCT Abu Dhabi, its tourism stakeholders and its partners have put into offering a ‘must-see, must-visit’ leisure and business destination to not only the international visitor, but to domestic guests also,” added Al Hosani.

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