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Abu Dhabi’s emergence as a popular destination for tourists is owed in no small part to its ongoing development of hotel, entertainment and promotional offerings available to travelers.
The UAE capital made headlines last month when plans for a Warner Bros.-themed park and branded hotel on Yas Island, the city’s leisure and entertainment district, were made public for the first time. Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi is scheduled to open in 2018, though no specific details regarding the number of rides or size of the park have been released yet.
“Tourism is a key tenant of our strategy to diversify the economy,” said Mubarak R. Al Nuaimi, director of promotions and overseas offices for TCA Abu Dhabi. “As part of this vision, the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority is committed to promoting tourism to the emirate through the continued development of infrastructure and expansion of hotel, food and activity offerings. Part of this includes welcoming world-class attractions such as Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, as we believe it will not only be of interest to families traveling to the area, but locals as well.”
The completion of the park is expected to help Yas Island elevate its annual visitor total from 25 million in 2015 to 30 million in 2018.
Yas’ current two theme parks, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi and Yas Waterworld, each feature unique distinctions. Earlier this year, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi unveiled Flying Aces, a rollercoaster with the highest loop in the world, while Yas Waterworld is home to the very first interactive water and laser rollercoaster, Bandit Bomber.
“Abu Dhabi is an incredibly diverse destination,” Nuaimi said. “You have the vibrant, cosmopolitan city of Abu Dhabi where you can enjoy a guided tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque — recently voted by TripAdvisor as the world’s fourth most popular landmark attraction — as well as experience the sport of falconry at Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, stroll along the waterfront Corniche or check out modern architecture.
Over the next few years, Nuaimi is looking forward to the development of Saadiyat Island, only a 20-minute drive from Yas Island. A manmade island consisting of commercial, residential and leisure projects, Saadiyat is expected to be fully completed by 2020. The island is poised to become a premier destination for arts and culture with the up-and-coming openings of Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Despite several construction delays, Louvre Abu Dhabi is on track to be the first of the Saadiyat Island museums opened to the public, either by the end of the year or early next year.
In anticipation of an increase in visitors, several hotels are scheduled to be completed before the end of this year to add to the city’s current number of about 30,000 hotel rooms. Abu Dhabi’s first Four Seasons hotel, which opened May 5, is situated next to The Galleria shopping mall on Al Maryah Island and features 162 guestrooms and 28 suites in a 34-floor high rise tower. The recently opened hotel holds the distinction of hosting Abu Dhabi’s only ballrooms that open right onto the water’s edge.
The 428-room Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Residences Emirates Pearl remains on schedule to open this fall with direct access to the city’s business and shopping districts, while the 563-room Fairmont Marina Resort, Abu Dhabi will open later this year as well.
As the summer approaches, the city is also on the verge of kicking off its annual Summer Season program of theater shows, comedy acts, concerts, circus performances and other activities held at venues across Abu Dhabi. Shows confirmed for the summer include the world premiere of “Hello Kitty Live – Fashion & Friends;” “Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Musical;” and “Dinosaur Live.”
A new component added to Summer Season 2016 will be Fun Nation at the du Forum on Yas Island. The family-friendly program will consist of mini-shows, character performances and interactive activities from July 14 to Aug. 6.
Last year’s Summer Season experienced a 21 percent increase in guest arrivals with a total of 951,979 visitors checking into at least one of the city’s hotels. The most significant increase came from India, with a nearly 30 percent spike in arrivals, while the number of travelers from the Americas went up 24.4 percent.
“We are hugely encouraged by the number of visitors who came to the emirate to experience Abu Dhabi Summer Season last year, not only from across the GCC but from around the world,” said Sultan Al Dhaheri, acting executive director of tourism for TCA Abu Dhabi. ”This annual event is one that reaps very positive rewards in our visitor numbers during the traditionally quieter summer period as we move toward becoming a year-round destination.”