Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim 'still active' as Abu Dhabi unveils Dh500m promotional campaign

Fruits of last year's stimulus package, Ghadan 21, revealed with tourism officials saying hotel fee cuts will boost business by Dh1bn

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Abu Dhabi has introduced a Dh500 million campaign to promote the emirate as a global tourist attraction.

The three-year project will be aimed at countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, India and Russia, along with the domestic market as Abu Dhabi makes a sustained push to attract more visitors.

The campaign was revealed on Tuesday by Saif Ghobash, undersecretary at the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi.

Mr Ghobash confirmed that major Saadiyat Island projects including the Zayed National Museum and the Guggenheim were still in progress.

“All I can say now is that with Louvre Abu Dhabi done and completed a year ago, all the other projects have been put into full gear,” he said.

Plans for the Zayed National Museum were announced in 2007, with a design inspired by a falcon’s feathers completed by the British architect Norman Foster. But the opening has been pushed back several times.

The new promotional funds, meanwhile, are part of the Dh50 billion stimulus package announced last year by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces.

Known as Ghadan 21, the stimulus seeks to boost the economy and help to diversify it away from oil.

Close to half of the Dh500m promotional pot aims to raise awareness about Abu Dhabi's new attractions such as Louvre Abu Dhabi, Qasr Al Hosn and Warner Bros, in the run-up to Dubai's Expo 2020.

Meanwhile, 35 per cent of the funds will build Abu Dhabi’s status as a leading cultural destination in the Middle East.

The precise scope of the campaign was not revealed but traditional and social media, TV advertisements and roadshows are all expected to be a part of the plan.


Abu Dhabi's Qasr Al Watan opens to public


Tourism officials said the Dh1bn would come from more guest stays.

The department on Tuesday announced that it expected to make Dh1bn in savings for hotel owners over the next three years after its move last year to cut fees on hotel stays.

Tourism fees were reduced from 6 to 3.5 per cent, municipal fees from 4 to 2 per cent and hotel room fees from Dh15 to Dh10 a night under the Ghadan 21 plan.

Long-stay guests who are in hotels for more than 30 days are also exempt from the fees, along with rates on tickets sold by hotels for access to tourist attractions.

Mr Ghobash also welcomed Monday's opening to the public of Qasr Al Watan as another part of the rich tapestry Abu Dhabi offers.

“It was very successful,” he said. “I looked at the social media feeds that evening and was very pleased.

"The name is also important. It brings the palace down to the individual level and connects with people.”

With so much of the focus on Saadiyat and Yas islands in recent years, attention is turning back to the old city.

But Mr Ghobash said this must be seen as part of a wider plan to bring people across the city, from Saadiyat to Mina Zayed to Qasr Al Hosn.

“It creates a pattern,” he said. “You can see a natural flow of investments to create districts where it is easy for pedestrians to walk around and spend half a day there.”

Statistics show 10 million people visited Abu Dhabi last year. The emirate counts overnight international visitors and day trippers from other emirates.

It is hoped that the three-year plan will boost this but a definite target for 2021 was not revealed on Tuesday.