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Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, crown prince of Abu Dhabi and chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, has approved the new “Tourism Strategy 2030” for the emirate. Spearheaded by the Department of Culture and Tourism — Abu Dhabi, the ambitious blueprint signals a new era of expansion and strategic development in the travel and tourism sector.

The strategy seeks to boost visitor numbers from nearly 24 million in 2023 to 39.3 million by 2030 (overnight and same-day), with a 7 percent year-on-year growth. Moreover, it plans to significantly elevate the tourism and travel sector’s contribution to the UAE’s GDP, raising it from approximately 49 billion dirhams ($13.3 billion) in 2023 to 90 billion dirhams annually by 2030.

The strategy will generate an estimated 178,000 new jobs by 2030 as the entire tourism infrastructure develops to meet this demand. It intends to almost double international overnight visitors from 3.8 million in 2023 approximately to 7.2 million in 2030, expand hotel room availability from 34,000 in 2023 to 52,000 by 2030, and further enhance the holiday home segment to diversify accommodation options.

Mohamed Khalifa Al-Mubarak, chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi, said: “The Tourism Strategy 2030 marks a pivotal moment in Abu Dhabi’s transformative journey, representing a vital lever in our ongoing evolution. Delivered alongside our key partners, the strategy underscores our steadfast commitment to fostering sustainable growth and strategic development in the travel and tourism sector. Through carefully crafted initiatives that will unlock economic opportunities, amplify our distinctive culture and enhance the emirate’s value proposition, we are laying the foundation for a vibrant and prosperous future that transcends generations.”

Fostering sustainable growth across four strategic pillars

To achieve the strategy’s goals, 26 key initiatives have been identified across four strategic pillars: Offering and City Activation; Promotion and Marketing; Infrastructure and Mobility; and Visa, Licensing, and Regulations. These pillars form the foundation of Abu Dhabi’s comprehensive approach to realizing its ambitious tourism targets and fostering sustainable growth in the sector.

The initiatives will be unlocked through the collective vision of DCT Abu Dhabi, the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development, the Department of Municipalities and Transport, Abu Dhabi Airports Company, and other key government and private stakeholders, who play a strategic role in bringing Abu Dhabi’s tourism vision to life.

The first pillar, Offering and City Activation, looks to further enhance the overall guest experience by unveiling additional cultural sites, theme parks, retail offerings and new hotel chains, as well as boosting the emirate’s events calendar of year-round concerts, festivals, and family events. The dining landscape will diversify significantly, offering expanded options including the introduction of culinary schools and training programs.

DCT Abu Dhabi will also more than double its Promotion and Marketing efforts, expanding its international reach from 11 to 26 markets and enhancing synergy within Abu Dhabi’s tourism ecosystem. It will also establish strategic global partnerships with media outlets and well-known brands for high-profile collaborations, creating compelling, market-specific content across various touchpoints.

The strategy’s Infrastructure and Mobility pillar will increase hotel room availability across various categories, including accessible and luxury options, glamping, and farm stays. Through valued collaborations, the emirate is set to enhance roads, public transport, and infrastructure, simplifying travel within and boosting visitor inflow through increased flight seat capacity with both local and international airlines.

Lastly, both visitor experience and tourism business operations will be greatly enhanced with streamlined Visa, Licensing and Regulation processes. In collaboration with relevant government agencies, enhanced platforms and processes will reduce time frames for all applications and permits, to improve the ease of doing business and attract investment.

Building on the success of 2023

In 2023, Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector saw a remarkable surge, welcoming nearly 24 million visitors. The 27 percent rise in hotel guests and 54 percent increase in international guests bolstered the economy with an approximate 49-billion-dirham contribution to the UAE’s GDP.

Arrivals from key international markets like India, Russia, the UK, China and Saudi Arabia, played a pivotal role in 2023. The emirate’s vibrant array of over 150 events, its pristine beaches and natural landscapes, as well as its cultural sites such as Qasr Al-Hosn, Qasr Al-Watan and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, attracted more than 8.7 million visitors. Offerings across museums, cultural festivals and art exhibitions saw record-setting attendance, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the inaugural Manar Abu Dhabi public art exhibition, underscoring the emirate’s diverse appeal.

Visitor numbers were further boosted by a 44 percent increase in Meetings, Incentives, Conferences, and Exhibitions events. With 960,000 delegates across 2,477 events exploring Abu Dhabi’s attractions and dining options, the food and beverage sector saw a resultant 21 percent revenue increase. In addition, flagship entertainment events like the MOTN Festival and Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, along with cultural milestones such as the Al-Hosn Festival and the Liwa Festival, further solidified Abu Dhabi’s position as a global center for leisure and tourism.

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