Culture remains at the heart of Abu Dhabi’s tourism growth, according to a government report.
Last year, the UAE capital welcomed 18 million visitors, with three million taking in the emirate's cultural sites, data from the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi reveals.
Overnight visitors reached 4.1 million, a 24 per cent increase compared to the previous year.
And travellers are staying in the capital for an average of three nights, with hotel occupancy rates averaging 70 per cent, higher than the average across the Middle East. According to data analytics company STR, the region averaged 63.6 per cent occupancy last year.
The three most visited cultural sites in the capital were Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Cultural Foundation and Qasr Al Hosn.
Abu Dhabi also celebrated having two "intangible cultural elements" inscribed on Unesco’s lists – camel hidda, the oral tradition of calling a flock of camels, and the date palm.
“Culture is at the heart of everything we do. From our welcoming Emirati hospitality to the evolving Saadiyat Cultural District, we ensure that what we offer to our visitors and our communities is consistently relevant, credible and differentiated,” said Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi.
Several cultural events took place in the city last year, including the largest Abu Dhabi Art to date, with 80 galleries from 28 countries. The past season also saw the completion of the Abu Dhabi Historic Environment Record System with 500 new sites added to the database of known immovable cultural heritage sites.
And the Abrahamic Family House opened its doors in Saadiyat Cultural District, boosting offerings at one of the world's major cultural projects soon to be home to the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi and Zayed National Museum.
The city has also increased its presence on a global stage through the launch of Experience Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s destination brand.
A strong calendar of events, including the return of the Mother of the Nation Festival and Abu Dhabi Culinary Season, boosted visitor numbers.
Concerts and events including Disney on Ice, which welcomed 29,000 visitors, and The Lion King, with nearly 50,000, also increased the emirate’s appeal.
And hotels in Abu Dhabi have also improved with the number of under-performing properties dropping from 105 in 2021 to 23.