With Indian producing the largest number of international hotel guests for Abu Dhabi over the past year, the emirate's tourism industry is embarking on a five-city roadshow aimed at keeping the destination foremost in the country's outbound influencers' mindset.
From August 25-29, some 14 Abu Dhabi tourism stakeholders including Etihad Airways, Yas Island, hotels, tour operators and attractions, will join the roadshow across Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai and New Delhi which has been organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi).
In the first six months of this year, 107,995 Indian guests checked into Abu Dhabi's hotels and resorts – a growth of 35% over the same period last year. The arrivals delivered 408,862 guest nights, which was up 22% year-on-year with the average-length-of-stay being 3.79 nights.
"The destination is benefitting from excellent air uplift from India at the moment with our national airline Etihad Airways and its partner Jet Airways providing convenient and quick travel options to Abu Dhabi from tier 1 and tier 2 cities all over the country," said Mubarak Al Nuaimi, Director, Promotions & Overseas Offices, TCA Abu Dhabi. "This will be boosted further this February when Etihad launches daily flights from the West Bengal capital of Kolkata to Abu Dhabi."
Currently Etihad Airways operates 112 flights per week from 10 Indian destinations to Abu Dhabi International.
"We anticipate further consumer interest coming for the destination with the planned release this October of the much-anticipated Bollywood movie Bang Bang starring Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif, parts of which were shot in Abu Dhabi," added Al Nuaimi. "We also expect our profile in India to rise with the opening shortly of the Sanjeev Kapoor 'Signature' restaurant in the Nation Towers on Abu Dhabi Corniche."
Such is the size of Indian interest that the recently-opened, five-star The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, says the market already accounts for 15% of its leisure business. "On top of this we welcomed several Indian groups during the opening month of our property," said Titus Rosier, Director of Sales. "We've also had a great leisure group coming from India in the summer months and are seeing a steady growth of flexible independent traveller business. The large luxury segment in India is a perfect target market for our property. We expect it to be a key market in the future."
Indian weddings are being actively pursued by Abu Dhabi stakeholders. The iconic Yas Viceroy – the only hotel in the world straddling an F1 race track – says it's successfully handled three huge Indian weddings over the past few years. "All of them involved bookings of above 200 rooms and we are now looking forward to targeting at least three more weddings in the forthcoming year," said Ibrahim Korkut, Director of Sales & Marketing, Yas Viceroy.
Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi, which has recently undergone total refurbishment, has specifically tailored some products for the Indian market. "We have Indian food in our all-day dining restaurant and have also tailor-made menus for the Indian market," said a spokesman. "In addition, we always make sure we have Indian national staff members on duty so they can help with guest liaison."
The hotel, which is close to Abu Dhabi Corniche, says it is seeing an upturn in bookings from India. "We are seeing a huge increase year-over-year – it's up 50% on the same time last year. We consider it as a growing market which we need to focus on to increase market share, particularly among the MICE and wedding business."
Al Diar Hotels, which operates a number of budget properties in Abu Dhabi, says its Indian business is up 30% this year and has now dedicated a sales person specifically for the market.
"India is a strong market and accounts for a large percentage of our corporate clients," said Fadi Ibrahim, Director of Sales & Marketing.
Al Ain Zoo is also reporting increased visitation from Indian travellers swayed by its special discounted family packages and its Asian Month event – an Indian traditions-themed month.
"The Indian market is huge in the UAE now in terms of tourists and residents," said HE Ghanim Mubarak Al Hajeri, Director General. "They are quite good spends on entertainment and enjoying family life. There is a growth in Indians visiting the zoo every year, particularly during our Asian month."
Lama Desert Tourism LLC, which opened an office in Abu Dhabi city two years ago and is offering packages to the emirate, says it has seen a 15-20% rise in its business especially from India's tier 2 cities.
"At the roadshow we will launch winter specials at hotels and various attractions across the emirate including luxury packages and other best deals especially tailored for Indian travellers," said Kulwant Singh, Managing Director.
"We have had several large groups in the recent past from India – some of them have been over 1,000 people – and they had great experiences visiting Abu Dhabi."