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We would argue that we’ve become a good value-for-money destination in terms of quality of product and infrastructure on offer

Lawrence Franklin, Strategy and Policy, Division director ADTA

“Events like the Formula One basically fill up the town. You’re

talking about 50,000-plus visitors in grandstands, room rates going up. It has huge economic benefits for the destination. And add to that the awareness benefits. “There are the real benefits in terms of occupancy and people spending money. Maybe they come for the F1 but they also get exposed to many of the other things the destination has to offer. “There is also the benefit of repeat tourism, corporate hos-

pitality and deal-making. It’s incredibly important. This is an opportunity for the ADTA, Mubadala and Etihad to bring their influential partners and stakeholders, show them what the destination has to offer and put pen to paper signing deals. ”

BRINGING IN BUSINESS While Abu Dhabi continues to pursue leisure tourism to diver- sify its industry, revenue from the meetings industry is still the biggest contributor to the hospitality sector. Franklin estimates that business tourism accounts for 70 to

75 percent of all hotel stays. It is a slice of the market that the ADTA takes seriously, with dedicated programmes and a team working entirely on the business tourism sector. “An event we discuss a lot is the World Ophthalmology

Congress in 2012, which involves in excess of 12,000 delegates. This is a huge conference that will basically mop up all room stock for that period of time,” he explains.

“We’re not always going to get events of that magnitude, but we’re continuing to work on health- care congresses, World Green Tourism conference [December 5 to 7] and other programmes like that.” With Abu Dhabi’s focus on the luxury sector, par-

Ophthalmology Congress in 2012

12,000 delegates at World

ticularly in the hotel sector, is there concern that it may impact business tourism? Not so, says Franklin. “We certainly have a lot of product in the five-

and four-star hotel range, although there’s contin- ued growth in four-star and three-star properties. We’re keen on maintaining a bias towards the higher end of the market,” he explains. “Most of the discussion in 2007, 2008 and even

the beginning of 2009 was about the cost of accom- modation in Abu Dhabi, value proposition and whether it was pricing business travellers out of the market. But the fact that those hotels were still full and doing well meant that there was a business market that was prepared to pay those prices.” The landscape has changed markedly since late-

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Wildlife at Sir Bani Yas Island

2009 with the opening of a number of hotels, includ- ing seven on Yas Island, and more coming online since. In fact, the end of 2011 will see an additional 10 hotels added to the mix, all in the luxury sector. “We’re seeing a significant shift in average room

rate and we’ve reached a point where we’re within the mix of world markets. We would argue that we’ve become a good value-for-money destination in terms of quality of product and infrastructure on offer. “Those changes and dynamics have made the industry a bit hungrier, forcing people to work together in terms of packaging, distribution and negotiation, which has been good for the growth in leisure tourism. “One of the realities is that in a market where

hotels are running at 85 to 90 percent and room rates are extraordinarily high there may be many corporates that are prepared to swallow those expenses. However, people who are relying on their own wallets or have discretionary spending are going to be priced out of the market.” Fortunately, the market correction has occurred

and with even more hotels opening, added leisure facilities, an array of new and interesting meetings and conference options, the future looks bright for Abu Dhabi. 

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