More Than A Stopover
Business Traveller Africa|February 2017

For so long overshadowed by its fellow emirate Dubai, Abu Dhabi is shedding that ‘underdog’ status after a couple of years of sustained growth and a more focused approach to what it offers its visitors – both business and leisure.

As the capital of the United Arab Emirates and the largest of the seven UAE member emirates, there should be no reason for Abu Dhabi to have to flex its muscles and jostle for position alongside its arguably more high-profile neighbour Dubai.

Yet it does, and there’s no getting away from the perception that Abu Dhabi is the ‘poorer’ UAE cousin, despite its obvious wealth.

But that’s just perception, and Abu Dhabi has spent the last few years working hard at breaking that down. That hard work has paid dividends.

2016 saw Abu Dhabi ranked among the fastest-growing destinations in the world, and the fastest-growing destination in the Middle East, in a report by financial services giant MasterCard.

The Global Cities Index Report recognised the UAE capital’s compound annual growth rate of 19.81% in overnight visitors between 2009 and 2016, which placed the emirate in third place alongside major upcoming destinations such as Osaka in Japan and Chengdu in China, and above established hubs such as Tokyo, Riyadh and Taipei in Taiwan.

The report is produced on an annual basis, and features results gathered by field specialists through extensive research.

Abu Dhabi was one of only three Arabian Gulf cities to make it into the top 50 overall rankings for destination cities in the world, and posted record-breaking results in 2016, with more than four million guests checking into the emirate’s 168 hotel and hotel apartments in the first 11 months of the year.

The strong performance of the emirate was underpinned by the UAE capital hosting world class events such as Abu Dhabi Summer Season, Abu Dhabi Food Festival, the Qasr Al Hosn Festival and a comprehensive programme of events to celebrate New Year in the city, as well as successes in the MICE sector, with Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau – part of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority – having a record-breaking year by securing agreements to host 14 conferences, which are expected to attract more than 35,000 delegates to the emirate in upcoming years.

Other notable factors included the opening to the public of Al Ain Oasis World Heritage Site and impressive growth in Abu Dhabi’s cruise sector following the opening of the city’s permanent cruise terminal and the opening of the region’s first ever beach destination for cruise ships on Sir Bani Yas Island.

“The outstanding results offered in this year’s Global Destination Cities Index Report reflect Abu Dhabi’s ongoing successes in achieving global recognition as a leading international destination,” said Saif Saeed Ghobash, Director General, TCA Abu Dhabi ,at the end of 2016.

The Global Destination Cities Index Report conducted by MasterCard covered 132 cities, investigating global crossborder travel and spending in order to speculate on the growth trajectories of the many increasingly dynamic global destinations cities that are on the rise around the world.

MasterCard concluded that their study into the fastest-growing destination cities has revealed that there are strong and multi-faceted sources of momentum propelling cities such as Abu Dhabi into newly established positions as international hubs of business, tourism and commerce.

AIRPORTS & AIRLINE 

Abu Dhabi International Airport is one of the fastest-growing airport hubs in the world, currently serving in the region of a hundred destinations in over 50 countries.

Within the next couple of years, over 20 million passengers are expected to pass through AUH. To meet this growing demand, Abu Dhabi Airports is already well into its construction of the Midfield Terminal Building, a key element of the future Midfield Terminal Complex (MTC), which will include cargo and catering facilities, utilities and related infrastructure.

Totalling 700,000m 2 , the new terminal will be designed to minimise environmental impact and will also feature 27,500m 2 of lounges, an 8,400m 2 indoor park and a museum of Emirati culture, along with state-of-the art passenger systems and a vast array of retail and food beverage outlets, entertainment and leisure facilities.

Among those ‘state-of-the-art systems’, smart technology and self-service kiosks will be introduced in the new terminal to streamline passenger processing.

“The Midfield Terminal building will be an airport terminal as never before seen,” says Ali Al Mansoori, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Airports. “No other country has built infrastructure like this.”

One example is the new bagcheck system, which will handle more than 19,000 bags an hour. Passengers will place their luggage on a belt, where it will then be assigned a barcode and a tray for easy tracking. Passport processing will also be much faster with advanced biometric technology.

“You’ll just swipe your hand and you’re good to go,” says Al Mansoori.

The MTB will become the primary gateway for passengers travelling through Abu Dhabi, and the future home of Etihad Airways, the national carrier. It is due to be complete this year.

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