Domestic market 'key' to recovery of Abu Dhabi's tourism industry

Ali Al Shaiba, executive director, DCT-Abu Dhabi has revealed discussions are ongoing with relevant authorities to open up emirate to international tourists

Domestic tourism will be key to the recovery of the industry in Abu Dhabi, with no immediate plans to open up the emirate to international visitors, according to Ali Al Shaiba, executive director, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi.

Unlike neighbouring Dubai, where international tourists were welcomed back earlier this month, Abu Dhabi, which enforced a more sustained period of lockdown for those entering and leaving the emirate, aimed at curbing the spread of coronavirus, currently remains closed to the wider world.

While he told Arabian Business he is looking for that to change “hopefully soon”, Al Shaiba said the status quo would remain for the foreseeable future.

He said: “We have our own plans and I think we are not far from there. We have plans and we are working with government authorities to put these plans in place. We are taking it gradually. The city is open now for domestic visitors. Once the travel restrictions ease, we will definitely welcome people from different parts of the world.”

Hotels, restaurants, lounges, bars, beaches, pools and gyms, which had all been closed since March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, reopened under strict guidelines at the end of May.

Al Shaiba revealed that hotel occupancy in Abu Dhabi for the second week of July reached around 60 percent as a result of the returning domestic market.

“We believe that domestic will play a big role in the next few months as the travellers still have some concerns about travelling abroad. Domestic will be the key for us to recover the industry,” he said.

According to the latest forecast from the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the UAE could lose up to $10.2 billion of its GDP if the impact to the tourism sector is moderate; $20.3bn for an intermediate hit; and as much as $30.5bn if the impact is dramatic.

Al Shaiba said from the studies they have been resesarching, a recovery, to the levels seen in 2019, pre-pandemic, would not be felt until Q1 in 2023.

However, he remained upbeat about the industry. “We are definitely positive about the future, regardless of this Covid-19 impact which will take maybe a year or two. But after that I think we will go back to normal. We believe we will see an increase in the number of visitors to Abu Dhabi,” he said.

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