Tourism Development in Abu Dhabi

Tourism is considered one of the major contributing factors towards maintaining a sustainable economy and prosperity of Abu Dhabi. Thus, according to the state vision and strategic plans, the tourism sector is expected to play the major role in facilitating the economic growth of Abu Dhabi and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) (“Opportunity Abu Dhabi,” 2013). The responsibility of developing tourism in the city is entrusted to the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Cultural Authority (TCA) (“Opportunity Abu Dhabi,” 2013). This body governs the tourism industry in Abu Dhabi and promotes its development by means of strategic initiatives and events (“Opportunity Abu Dhabi,” 2013). Thus, the TCA strives to preserve the cultural heritage of Abu Dhabi and promote the city’s development as a touristic destination.

Currently, the most profitable segments of the tourism industry in Abu Dhabi are hospitality and cultural ones (Henderson, 2015). According to Kozak and Kozak (2015), the efforts of Abu Dhabi’s authority and private business allowed increasing the city’s popularity and recognition among tourists worldwide. As of 2015, Abu Dhabi was on the Top Ten Travel Destination List (Martens & Reiser, 2017). In addition, analytics forecast that the local tourism industry will grow at an average rate of 6.5 percent annually between 2014 and 2021 thanks to the development of progressive segments that are popular among tourists (Jafari & Scott, 2014). According to the state statistics, in 2016, approximately four million people vacated in Abu Dhabi (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy, 2016).  In line, the city earned approximately $259 billion of profit (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy, 2016). Therefore, the tourism industry directly facilitates the economic growth of Abu Dhabi and the UAE. However, the industry may experience many challenges, including a weak rate of the euro against US dollar, possible impact of low oil prices on the sector, as well the growth in oil supplies (The Authority on World Travel and Tourism, 2015).

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The analysis of strategic Abu Dhabi’s plans revealed a gap in developing perspective segments of the tourism industry that are popular in other countries and can attract more tourists, particularly people that choose sports and cultural eco-tourism. Thus, currently, sports tourism is considered one of the growing and most profitable sectors in the tourism industry due to its positive economic, social, and environmental influences (Prabhu & Subramanian, 2015). In addition, nowadays, the concept of cultural tourism is no longer limited to visiting historical sites and museums, observing traditional industries, and attending festivals or exhibitions (Sutton, 2016). Therefore, the paper will examine the factors that influence the development of tourism in Abu Dhabi, the most popular tourist attractions, and possible perspectives on developing sports and cultural tourism in the city.

The research is considered important as it will examine the current state of Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry and analyze perspectives on its development. In addition, few research studies have investigated the influence of the sports and cultural tourism on Abu Dhabi’s economy and social life. Furthermore, the research will summarize negative and positive effects on the local tourism industry. Finally, the paper will provide results of the unique survey conducted with the view to estimating the public opinion concerning contributing factors that allow attracting more tourists, developing popular Abu Dhabi’s attractions, as well as creating new perspective segments of this industry. Therefore, the paper will provide a theoretical and empirical analysis of Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry, its most profitable segments, impact on the state economy, and perspectives on its development.



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The Tourism Industry of Abu Dhabi

According to strategic plans of the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development (2008), tourism is an important element of the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030.

The city welcomed record numbers of hotel guests in 2016 according to the figures presented in the annual state report (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy, 2016). In such a manner, four million tourists visited Abu Dhabi in 2016; this figure means an 8% growth comparing with the data of 2015 (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy, 2016). Melotti (2014) considers the hospitality sector the most profitable segment of Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry due to the constant increase of tourists that are attracted by the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Mangrove Kayaking, Saadiyat Cultural District, Liwa Oasis, and Yas Island, for example.

In addition, the TCA constantly develops and adopts international marketing programs and development strategies with the aim of attracting more tourists from around the world. Thus, the most recent program of the TCA titled “Welcome Chinese” has resulted in the increase in Chinese tourists to Abu Dhabi (Zaidan, Taillon, & Lee, 2016). The majority of local hotels, tourist attractions, and malls signed up for the program. Consequently, more services became available to Chinese visitors, including Mandarin-speaking attendants, and payment services for China’s Union Pay bank cards (Zaidan et al., 2016). Furthermore, the TCA aims to develop cultural tourism in the capital. Thus, it is planned to open Zayed National Museum, Guggenheim Museum, and Louvre Abu Dhabi (The Authority on World Travel and Tourism, 2015). Finally, private investors and state authority are expected to invest around $200 billion to cover demand for marina berths in Abu Dhabi (“Opportunity Abu Dhabi,” 2013).

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Impact of the Tourism Industry on the Economy of Abu Dhabi

Travel and tourism are among the major economic activities of Abu Dhabi. Currently, the city occupies 16% share of the UAE’s tourism economy (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy, 2016). According to Stylidis, Biran, Sit, and Szivas (2014), the growth of tourism in Abu Dhabi influences positively economic indexes of the state. The Authority on World Travel and Tourism (2015) forecasts that in the next five years, the Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry will get profit of $15 trillion. In addition, Henderson (2015) considers that one of the major impacts of the tourism industry on the economy of Abu Dhabi concerns the creation of jobs and new working places for the locals.

Furthermore, Tolkach and King (2015) consider Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry to influence positively the retail sector and make it a progressive segment of the state economy. Thus, the retail sector has become a major contributor to the non-oil economy due to the boom of tourists (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy, 2016). In addition, as the number of tourists increases every year, food and beverage and construction industries of Abu Dhabi witness a rise of profits (United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy, 2016). Therefore, Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry has significant economic and social contributions, including perspectives for business, high rate of employment, trade, and capital investments, and the protection of heritage and cultural values.

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Perspectives of Tourism Development in Abu Dhabi

The Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority and local government have applied numerous measures in order to attract more tourists to the city. However, Saeid, Arifin, and Hasim (2012) consider that state initiatives should target the development of progressive segments of the tourism industry, particularly cultural and sport sectors that may bring significant profits to the state. Thus, a focus on the cultural tourism will help create modern architecture, monuments, hotels, and other touristic attractions that will combine the modern art and state heritage, traditions, and culture (Saeid et al., 2012). Thus, one example of the great development that may attract tourists by its combination of modernity and traditions is Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi. According to Jafari and Scott (2014), this project can be a cultural oasis that may accept eight million tourists annually providing 145,000 permanent residents.

In addition, Abu Dhabi has vast opportunities for organizing sports events in its territory, as well as host participants and spectators of various tournaments. According to Prabhu and Subramanian (2015), Abu Dhabi may develop its sports tourism sector into a major contributor to the state economy due to the local favorable climate conditions, modern and functional sporting infrastructure, and opportunities to host sports events year-long. Moreover, the development of sports tourism will increase benefits from the revenue and enhanced branding, as well as provide investments (Prabhu & Subramanian, 2015). Thus, the organization of marathons, tennis, cricket, golf, rugby, sailing, or sky diving may contribute significantly to strengthening Abu Dhabi’s status as a leading international sports tourism destination, as well as provide constant profit (Prabhu & Subramanian, 2015).


The paper aims to analyze qualitative and quantitative data on the influence of the tourism development in Abu Dhabi. The survey will be conducted with the aim of analyzing the public opinion concerning the current state of Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry, factors that influence its progress or regress, effect on the economy and social life, as well as opportunities on the further development. The survey will be conducted in the territory of the campus, and questionnaires will be distributed to both students and teachers. Respondents will be selected randomly. The approximate number of respondents is expected to be 50 people.

The questionnaire will consist of approximately ten questions. The majority of variables will be measured on a SEVEN-point Likert scale: 1 – Strongly disagree, 2 – Disagree, 3 – Somewhat disagree, 4 – Neither agree nor disagree, 5 – Somewhat agree, 6 – Agree, 7 – Strongly agree. In addition, some questions will require answers without suggested variables. Then, acquired data will be categorized and analyzed with the aim of answering the following research questions, “What factors are positively contributing towards attracting tourists to Abu Dhabi?” “What are the most popular tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi?” “How can Abu Dhabi be promoted as a tourist destination?” “What makes tourists desire to visit a certain destinations in Abu Dhabi?”

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