Abu Dhabi as a World-class Tourist Destination

01 Jun 01:58 AM

Sector : Tourism Country : UAE

 By Selim El Zyr

In just 41 years, the UAE has become one of the most important modern economic centers in the region and a well-known international tourism destination. This rapid growth is surely a testament to the vision of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.


Under the leadership and vision of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, UAE Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, the UAE has enjoyed rapid and sustainable growth that is expected to continue well into the years ahead.

Rotana is the largest operator in the UAE with 8,719 rooms and we are working hand in hand with the official entities and airlines to promote the Emirates as preferred a destination.

Every aspect of the UAE tourism strategy and its implementation works towards the reputation of the Emirates as an exclusive, high-end tourist destination, an idyllic place where the visitor can engage in world-class business yet still relax. Delivering the highest quality in travel, accommodation, tourist attractions and importantly, business facilities, is central to achieving that vision. Demographic and travel trends point to opportunity for the UAE. There is a growing acceptance of the Gulf as a holiday location and an increasing number of Europeans with time and money to spend on leisure travel. The climate is also aligned with the travel patterns of Europe and Asia.

The UAE has a bold strategy for the tourism industry where visitors will be drawn by what will be the region’s most distinctive and comprehensive set of cultural institutions, by a large and diverse selection of luxury hotels, by its world-class airport and airlines, by easy access to a complete range of convention and business services, by the serenity of its desert, by the beauty of its beaches, by its unique heritage attractions and by the warm hospitality of the Arabian Peninsula.

More than Dubai and Abu Dhabi

The Northern Emirates of the UAE is following the lead of Dubai and Abu Dhabi with new real estate, aviation and hospitality projects. Much of their success will come from a greater integration with the other Emirates making up the UAE. The authorities have succeeded in marketing these destinations to the sun loving Europeans and other destinations by participating in leading travel shows throughout the year and much of the tourism business in these Emirates comes from the weekend and short stay market, sourced from within the UAE itself, and from neighboring Saudi Arabia.

According to our recent research, traveling within the UAE, the GCC and, more widely, across the Middle East and Africa, is definitely catching on. Local and GCC visitor numbers at our hotels across the UAE in general is, undeniably, on the rise with an increase of more than 25 percent as compared to 2011. Our resorts in the Northern Emirates are fully booked at weekends. With more budget airlines operating in this region, local travel is becoming even better value.

Tourism as Part of the Diversification Drive

The Abu Dhabi government has made it clear that it is keen to see economic diversification for the future prosperity of the Emirate and tourism represents a significant opportunity to meet these goals. We are very encouraged by the recent increase in tourism that we have witnessed here in Abu Dhabi and, together with the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (ADTCA), hope to play a major role in nurturing further growth in this sector

Rotana is supporting Abu Dhabi’s development and has already signed additional properties in the Emirate with a few more under negotiations. We have been extremely active in representing the Emirate at the many international travel fairs and exhibitions that we have participated around the world. In addition, we are emphasizing Abu Dhabi as a “preferred destination” through our online reservation systems and global distribution partnerships. I am happy to say that these initiatives have already produced tremendous response and resulting bookings for our Abu Dhabi properties.

The well-established ADTCA is placing great emphasis on leisure-orientated tourism. With more than 200 natural islands to the west, year-round sunshine, and fabulous beaches, we are a strong contender for the “sun and sand” tourism sector. On top of this, ADTCA has announced that there are plans to further develop some of these islands as leisure resorts, where the government hopes to see much of the investment for these new resorts coming from the local private sector.

Abu Dhabi’s economy is largely dominated by the oil industry but with this in mind, the government has made it clear that it is keen to boost the diversification agenda, as stated in the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, for the future prosperity of the Emirate. Tourism, another key player, intersects with a number of other commercial and economic sectors, from real estate and construction to hospitality and retail. By encouraging visitors to Abu Dhabi we are attracting more business to the Emirate, which we hope will ultimately stimulate commercial and financial growth.

In Abu Dhabi alone, Rotana currently manages 12 properties with a total rooms’ inventory of 3,476. With a fair market share of 35 percent, Rotana manages more hotels in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain than any other single operator.

Furthermore, our future developments in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain include the opening of:

  • A 254-room alcohol free hotel in the garden city of Al Ain, Hili Rayhaan by Rotana
  • A 4 star 300-room hotel Capital Center Rotana and a 4 star 200-room hotel apartments, Capital Center Arjaan by Rotana, both located in ADNEC next to the newly opened Centro Capital Center
  • A stunning 354-room resort on Saadiyat Island
  • A 356-room Arjaan hotel apartments by Rotana in Marina Mall

The secret of the Emirate lies in its abundance in tourism offerings – pristine beaches, extensive desert wilderness, sporting attractions and luxurious shopping venues. The government of Abu Dhabi has placed tourism as a top priority, and seen as a good opportunity to boost the economic diversification and growth of the Emirate, while at the same time enhancing its international reputation.

Selim El Zyr
Co-founder, President and CEO of Rotana
Selim El Zyr graduated from EHL in 1970. After completion of his post graduate studies in Cornell, Selim started his career with Hilton International and over a 12 year long global association with the company he became the senior most executive of the company in the Gulf Region. Subsequently he headed the operations portfolio for Abu Dhabi National Hotels overseeing the company’s operations across the region.
In 1992 along with a few key associates, Selim established Rotana, the first and currently the largest hospitality management company in the Middle East and Africa region (MEA). In 1993 the company had 2 hotels in its portfolio, as of today this number stands at over 86 properties – 47 operating and 39 under different phases of development spread across the MEA region.


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