Why Abu Dhabi is Seeing Sharp Rise in Chinese Tourists, Expected to Jump to 600K a Year by 2021

The Middle East is at the center of the fast growing trade center; CPEC is expected to be one of the force multipliers.

(BE2C2 Report by Irshad Salim) — There has been a sharp increase in number of Chinese visitors to Abu Dhabi– the capital and the second most populous city of the United Arab Emirates (the most populous being Dubai), and also capital of the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, the largest of the UAE’s seven emirates.

In the first two months of the year, about 86,400 Chinese visited the city up by 41 percent from 2017, the city said Sunday.

February alone accounted for an impressive increase of 84 percent over last year, due to the traditional Chinese new year holiday of Spring Festival, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) said in a statement.

Popular tourist spots like Ferrari World leisure theme park and Yas Marina Mall held special events to celebrate the festival in order to attract more Chinese tourists.

Behind the increase is a marketing blitz the city has done in China as an inclusive and multi-cultural society. Several tourist attractions and hotels across the emirate have already received the China Tourism Academy’s Welcome Chinese Certification, awarded to destinations offering high quality services to Chinese visitors, including Mandarin-speaking staff, while recent legislation now means Chinese visitors do not need a visa to visit Abu Dhabi, making the process of staying in the emirate even easier.

Many leading destinations and hotels across Abu Dhabi also now accept China Union Pay bank cards making it easier for Chinese tourists to stay and travel.

In a recent marketing tour to China, the leading source of tourists for Abu Dhabi, a DCT Abu Dhabi delegation visited three major Chinese cities in March to introduce the emirate as a travel destination.

Its focus on oil exports and commerce reflected by the skyline’s modern towers and shopping megacenters such as Abu Dhabi and Marina malls has added to it a new dimension: tourism with eco-friendly environment, inclusiveness and a multi-cultural society ready to welcome the guests– a la New York style.

With a wide range of eco-tourism activities on the Sir Bani Yas island, including kayaking, trail running, mountain biking, diving, hiking, and safari tours, the emirate is rapidly becoming a leading eco-tourism and adventure destination in the region.

The 87-square-kilometer island off the coast of Abu Dhabi, was developed into a wildlife reserve by the late Sheikh Zayed in 1971. Over the years, it has established itself as one of the UAE’s largest animal reserves and is currently home to over 15,000 free roaming animals and birds.

Behind the rapid rise, is also the shift in global economic power that has placed the Middle East at the center of many of the world’s fastest growing markets, most important of which are India and China. As this handing over of the torch from advanced to emerging economies continues, the region, which finds itself at the epicenter of these shifts, is taking proactive steps to benefit from these. Dubai and Abu Dhabi in particular have leveraged that position to turn themselves into a global hub for tourism besides aviation and logistics.

Opening itself to mass markets such as China and India, the development of large-scale tourism projects, the trim down of corporate travel budgets during trying periods and the consumer behavior of the millennial traveler, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and other major cities in the region are addressing the skew of its hotel supply towards the luxury hotel sector and opening its door to welcome more budget-friendly mid-market, i.e. 3 and 4 star hotels, into the mix.

DCT Abu Dhabi has said the emirate aims to attract 600,000 Chinese hotel guests a year by 2021.

The emirate like Dubai is also adapting to new and emerging needs and trends driven by demographic shifts and social change, a shift in global economic power, accelerating urbanization, climate change and resource scarcity, and the rise of technology.

With the Middle East leading the emerging market population boom over the past decade, demographic and social change is a key issue that the tourism industry is tackling fast. The region is young, with 40% of its people under the age of 25; and its population expected to rise by almost 50% over the next 25 years– with almost same level of expatriates coming in. The travel and tourism industry in the Middle East today finds itself at the helm of a multi-faceted demand shift driven by these generational and demographic changes.

Abu Dhabi like Dubai is gearing up to surf this wave with multi-pronged strategies– building infrastructures, rebranding, and aggressive marketing to name a few.

The smartphone penetration for the GCC markets is among the highest in the world, reaching 78% in the UAE and 77% in Saudi Arabia. Therefore there lies a great opportunity for GCC to leverage on digitization for tourism. Abu Dhabi and Dubai are taking advantage of this.

Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director Promotions and Overseas Offices, DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “We have actively increased our efforts to capture the awareness of and convert Chinese travelers to visit Abu Dhabi. The efforts focused on lowering access barriers to Chinese travellers by preparing digital platforms, including our website and mobile application to fully support Mandarin-speaking users. We have formed partnerships with the popular technology companies Weibo, Wechat and Baidu to help DCT Abu Dhabi reach millions of new potential Chinese travelers.”

Recently, Abu Dhabi Police, as an example, begun using the Filipino national language to communicate with members of the Philippine community via various social media platforms.

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Constancio Vingno Jr. told The Gulf Today: “We welcome this latest initiative announced by the Abu Dhabi Police to start communicating their awareness messages and campaigns in Filipino.

“This will provide clarity to local laws among the increasing Filipino Community in Abu Dhabi and the rest of the Emirates.”

There are plans to add other languages also in the near future, in addition to the Arabic, English, French, Urdu, Hindi and recently, Filipino connection. Chinese is expected would be added, analysts predict.

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