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Department of Culture and Tourism: Abu Dhabi: Sustainable Growth for Tourism

Offering a range of rich culture, ancient history, stunning scenery and world-class shopping experiences, Abu Dhabi is a popular tourist destination drawing people in from all over the world to the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Abu Dhabi began from humble origins as a modest settlement which now has been transformed into a modern cosmopolitan high-rise haven that saw 24 million visitors arriving in the capital just last year. With such a vast influx of tourists every year, the tourism sector plays a vital role in developing the economy of Abu Dhabi. Therefore, a dedicated Department of Culture and Tourism was set up to enhance Abu Dhabi’s role as a tourism hub and form a diverse ecosystem that preserves, promotes, and embodies the heritage of the Emirate.

The Department of Culture and Tourism: Abu Dhabi (DCT: Abu Dhabi), provides a coordinated effort to regulate, promote and develop the tourism industry in Abu Dhabi to further establish its reputation as a leading global destination for people travelling locally and internationally. To achieve this vision, DCT: Abu Dhabi is encouraging investment, supporting local enterprises and developing systems to protect and promote cultural sites. Therefore, thanks to DCT: Abu Dhabi, the capital is now a leading tourist destination for both leisure and business trips. To achieve this level of promotion and regulation, DCT: Abu Dhabi has three main focus areas: tourism, culture, and Dar Al Kutub. These three sectors have allowed DCT: Abu Dhabi to position the capital as a dynamic and fast-evolving destination that thrives on the experiences of those travelling throughout Abu Dhabi.

In terms of its tourism sector, DCT: Abu Dhabi works closely with trade partners across the capital such as hotels, restaurants, and conference centres to increase guest arrivals, occupancy rates and footfall across the area. A key part of this work happens overseas at trade conferences, where DCT: Abu Dhabi is working to promote Abu Dhabi as a great location for MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions). This promotion as a great hub for business trips highlights not only the valuable role the UAE plays in international business operations but also the role Abu Dhabi continues to play as a valuable business trip location at the heart of the Middle East.

Then for leisure tourism, DCT: Abu Dhabi is seeking to promote the products, services, and attractions of the region. A key part of this operation includes the analysis of trends seen across the city’s tourism sector and then working to develop programmes which will develop these and provide an even greater experience for tourists visiting businesses, exhibitions, or cultural centres. This development for DCT: Abu Dhabi is largely in the form of ambitious marketing initiatives which have already positioned Abu Dhabi as a global destination offering some of the best tourism experiences and services in the world.

To achieve such a vast role across Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry, DCT: Abu Dhabi operates 10 offices in the capital and across the world to encourage tourism to the areas and highlight key development opportunities to maintain a steady stream of visitors over the coming years. Across these offices, DCT: Abu Dhabi is responsible for issuing licenses to hotels, tourism organisations, events, and conferences – to name just a few! These licenses ensure that every operation involving people visiting Abu Dhabi is supported and overseen with the highest of international standards which are working to improve the competitiveness of Abu Dhabi as a must-see tourism destination for both corporate and leisure activities.

However, cruise tourism also plays a valuable role in developing Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry. Abu Dhabi sits on the Arabian Gulf and so has become an increasingly popular destination for those seeking a bit of winter sun. Therefore, many international cruise lines make vital stops in Abu Dhabi at its state-of-the-art Cruise Terminal. The terminal every year welcomes cruise liners visiting from three main categories: cruise ships operating a seasonal service which start and begin in Abu Dhabi, cruise liners which visit Abu Dhabi as a port of call along Arabian Gulf itineraries, and cruise voyages which travel across the world stopping at the port for a day or two during worldwide itineraries. Therefore, thousands of tourists are travelling on these cruise liners yearly from place such as India, Australia and countries further in the Pacific to Abu Dhabi to experience the culture and sights that it has to offer.

For many tourists, the rich culture and heritage of Abu Dhabi is a big draw to the capital. Therefore, a key aspect of DCT: Abu Dhabi’s operations is to develop programmes which promote and support the culture of the region with events, exhibitions and museums that celebrate Abu Dhabi. Across Abu Dhabi, there is a range of UNESCO heritage sites, which are protected by DCT: Abu Dhabi to preserve and promote the significance of prominent archaeological and historical heritage of the capital which draw tourists from across the world. This responsibility to promote the dynamic culture of Abi Dhabi is something DCT: Abu Dhabi is very focused on as these are not only cornerstones of the region’s historical significance, but they play a vital role in developing the cultural tourism of the region.

Education and creativity are also key facets of DCT: Abu Dhabi’s operations as it has made big strides to broaden its audience for artistic and cultural undertakings with exhibitions, outreach programmes and academic courses. These are designed to inspire creativity and development of the region’s tourism sector for future generations to come. The foundation of this focus on education was seen in 1981 when the Dar Al Kutub for formed which is one of UAE’s largest knowledge repositories and a vital resource for academics across the globe. Dar Al Kutub acts as a publisher, translator, and promoter of major literary works with a particular focus on Emirati writers and researchers. This focus on knowledge through the Dar Al Kutub has solidified Abu Dhabi’s role as a vital hub of research and educational development for researchers across the world – once again providing yet another valuable asset to Abu Dhabi’s portfolio as a key international hub for tourism.

As DCT: Abu Dhabi moves towards the future, the DCT: Abu Dhabi are spearheading a newly devised Tourism Strategy 2030. The strategy is hoping to move Abu Dhabi towards the future of the tourism sector with aims to boost visitors to the Emirate to 39.3 million by 2030. Along with the increase in tourists visiting Abu Dhabi, the strategy hopes to also raise its contribution to UAE’s GDP to nearly AED 90 billion annually by 2030. The chairman of DCT: Abu Dhabi, H.E. Mohammed Khalifa Al Mubarak, highlighted that “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 distinction culture, and enhance the Emirate’s value proposition, we are laying the foundations for a vibrant and prosperous future that transcends generations”.

These comments highlight the valuable role that DCT will continue to play in the development of the Tourism Strategy 2030, to promote the development of tourism in Abu Dhabi. This development will focus on 4 distinctive pillars: offering & City Activation, Promotion & Marketing, Infrastructure & Mobility, and Visa, Licensing & Regulations. These pillars will work together to form the foundation of the programme’s approach to achieving sustainable growth in Abu Dhabi’s tourism industry.

Overall, Abu Dhabi is a bustling hub for tourism that sees millions of visitors visit the area from all across the globe. The tourism industry, therefore, plays a vital role in contributing towards the overall economic development of the region, and so as such a key player in the UAE’s GDP, DCT: Abu Dhabi is committed to developing every aspect of the tourism sector to make Abu Dhabi a highly sought after tourist destination. Therefore, with the implementation of a new strategy which is set to take the tourism industry to the next level, we look forward to seeing how DCT: Abu Dhabi will continue to develop the capital as a leading hub for tourism across the UAE.