Abu Dhabi sets out growth plan

Abu Dhabi has set out plans to grow travel and tourism's contribution to its economy, with a series of growth targets set for 2030 as it aims to draw in ever more international visitors

The rulers of Abu Dhabi have approved a new tourism strategy to drive growth in visitors to the emirate, over the next few years to the 2030 milestone. 

In common with other parts of the region, the focus is on broadening the area’s appeal to international tourists, aiming to grow the visitor economy to become a more significant contributor to Abu Dhabi’s economic future. In 2023, the emirate welcomed close to 24m daily and overnight visitors, and the aim is to grow this number to 39.3m by 2030. The economic impact of such a growth in visitor numbers will, it is estimated, grow travel and tourism’s contribution to the UAE’s economy from AED49bn currently to AED90bn by the target date. 

Four pillars of development

Those tasked with driving the strategy forward have identified 26 initiatives to focus on, across four strategic pillars. One of these, Offering and City Activation, looking at the overall guest experience, and the need for increased hotel accommodation to support visitors coming to a year round calendar of events. 

To achieve the target of more than doubling overnight stays by international visitors, hotel room inventory will need to increase from its current 34,000 to 52,000 by 2030, while there will also need to be an expansion of alternative accommodation such as the holiday home segment, it is acknowledged. Other initiatives will look to improve transport and infrastructure, ease regulation such as visitor visas, and work to actively promote and market Abu Dhabi as a destination to a broader, global audience. 

Accommodation initiatives are expected to develop a broad range of offerings, with glamping and farm stays mentioned, alongside the development of more traditional luxury hotels. To facilitate a greater number of international arrivals, plans are being advanced to grow airport, airline and flight capacity across a broad range of source markets. 

Building on momentum

The moves to grow Abu Dhabi as an international tourist destination will build on an existing momentum that in 2023 saw a year on year growth of 27% in hotel guest numbers, with a 54% rise in international guests. Alongside its cultural and landscape attractions, the emirate also demonstrated its pulling power when it comes to major events, which saw a 44% increase in 2023. Authorities recorded 960,000 delegates attending 2,477 events in 2023, with notable dates in the calendar including the MOTN, Al Hosn and Liwa Festivals, plus the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 grand prix.  

Among upcoming hotel projects already under way are the new Mondrian, a 221 room hotel from Ennismore, due to launch alongside the Abu Dhabi canal later in 2024. Marriott is growing its presence with the Liwa hotel, operating under the group’s Autograph Collection; the Marriott Mirfa beachfront resort in the Al Dhafra region; and upcoming branded executive apartments on Al Reem Island. And the Nobu brand is coming to Abu Dhabi, with a hotel, restaurant, beach club and branded residences all planned for a site on Saadiyat island.