Abu Dhabi will receive 600,000 Chinese tourists a year by 2021, a 265 per cent increase on the 163,935 guests who stayed in the emirate’s hotels during the first nine months of this year, according to the emirate’s tourism organisation.
“We seek to keep pace with the increasing demand for overseas vacations in the Chinese market by providing highly tailored programmes that cater to the needs of Chinese travellers,” said Saif Ghobash, the director general of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi). “We recently visited China with our partners … with the aim of bolstering the sales of holiday and tourism programmes to Abu Dhabi.”
Last year, China had 120 million outbound tourists, a 12 per cent jump on 2014, who spent US$104.5 billion, which was 16.7 per cent more than in 2014, according to figures from China Tourism Research Institute. Growth slowed in the first half of this year with just over 59 million outbound tourists.
“While the growth projections look slightly aggressive, we do not consider this impossible,” said Rashid Aboobacker, an associate director at Tri Consulting. “The Chinese outbound market is estimated to be 120 million in size [in 2015] and expected to grow to over 177 million by 2020.”
The UAE receives only a very small proportion of this market. Of the 14.2 million visitors to Dubai in 2015, 450,000 were from China.
“Based on our research and experience, a large proportion of Chinese tourists tends to gravitate towards budget/midmarket accommodation. There is relatively limited supply of three- and four-star hotels in Abu Dhabi, but hotels in the city are much cheaper compared to Dubai at the moment,” said Mr Aboobacker.
TCA Abu Dhabi has an office in China to work with the country’s tourism and travel sectors, ensuring that the emirate is included in programmes offered to clients. Hotels in the emirate have also received the China Tourism Academy’s Welcome Chinese Certification, given to destinations offering dedicated services such as Mandarin-speaking staff.
In September, the UAE Government said it would grant Chinese visitors visas on arrival.
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