Even with more international arrivals, Abu Dhabi will not lose sight of domestic tourism
Abu Dhabi’s move to remove quarantine on international arrivals from July 1 could turn out to be just the boost that the emirate’s tourism and aviation sectors were seeking.
Abu Dhabi currently requires travelers to quarantine for 10 days unless they are from a ‘green-list’ country. So far, it has relied on domestic tourism to fill up its hotels and resorts during the pandemic months.
But “The focus on domestic will continue – the majority of our visitors in the past two years were domestic,” said Ali Al Shaiba, Executive Director of Tourism and Marketing at Department of Culture and Tourism, Abu Dhabi.
As of now, 40 per cent of Abu Dhabi’s tourism market is derived from residents’ spending, which allowed the emirate’s hotels to maintain occupancy rates of 65-70 per cent in 2020. “With the ease of restrictions and travel, we will tap into international and try to get that market share as well,” said Al Shaiba.
More than hotels, the easing of quarantine decision is a big relief for airlines such as Etihad, Wizz Air Abu Dhabi and Air Arabia Abu Dhabi. “We are working side by side with these airline partners to increase the frequency and capacity from source markets,” he added. “Wherever we see there is an opportunity to increase (tourist) numbers.”
Earlier this month, Wizz Air’s Abu Dhabi Managing Director Kees Van Schaick bemoaned the emirate’s travel restrictions. “The self-isolation requirement in returning to Abu Dhabi is not helping traffic,” said Schaick. “We see that our sister airline is flying at the moment into Dubai, and they are able to offer a product for their customers where no such restrictions exist.”
Abu Dhabi also has plans to modify the current border with Dubai to ensure easy access for tourists. “We’re working with the government to plan for that border to make it a more tourist-friendly border,” said Al Shaiba. “We can have specific procedures for tourists… so their pass through the border will be much easier.
“We don’t want to open a part of the destination – we wanted to make sure that everything will be available for them (tourists) when they come.”
If successful, Abu Dhabi could tap into Dubai’s tourism market, which is now showing some signs of recovery thanks to an early start. Since its reopening in July 2020, Dubai has welcomed more than 1.7 million tourists up to December, with international overnight visitor numbers increasing from 40,000 in July to 560,000 in December.
“This progress in the second-half of 2020 validated Dubai’s robust approach towards tackling the unprecedented challenge, and enabled us to carry forward the momentum into 2021, which has seen 1.26 million international visitors in the first quarter,” said Helal Saeed Almarri, Director General of Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (Dubai Tourism).
“While the pace of the global industry revival in 2021 will be influenced by the evolving COVID-19 situation, and the easing of travel restrictions in several countries, Dubai will continue on its path to sector recovery.”