EXPANSION, EXPANSION, EXPANSION

Abu Dhabi 2016 | TOURISM | FOCUS: TOURISM FOOTFALL

Abu Dhabi International Airport is receiving ever-increasing passenger volumes, which is bearing fruit in the form of a premier tourism industry.

Passenger handling has continued to grow in Abu Dhabi, with an 18% increase YoY for the first nine months of 2015 and a total of 17.4 million passengers using Abu Dhabi International Airport. August 2015 was a record-breaking month, as the airport saw 2.25 million passengers pass through, leaving it on course to process 24 million passengers for the calendar year.

This, naturally, spurred on hotel bed-nights, with a total of 951,979 visitors checking into the 169 hotels and hotel apartments, equating to a rise of 21% over 2014. The visitor origin with the sharpest increase was India, rising 29.8% to 68,610, while the Americas and Europe grew by a respective 24.4% and 18.1%. Visitors from the UAE increased by 9.8% and visitors from Oceania grew by 4.3%.

The World Economic Forum stated that in 2014 the UAE's tourism industry was worth AED56.44 billion and would grow 7.6% YoY, with a growth of 9.6% in tourism receipts. This will grow exponentially, as the Emirate is anticipating 8 million tourists by 2030. Abu Dhabi International Airport is currently constructing the $3.2 billion new-build Midfield terminal to deal with the increasing volume of passengers. The terminal is being constructed by three companies, after their successful joint bid: Arabtec, TAV, and Athens-based Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC). The new terminal, which will be fully operational by the end of 2017, will have the capacity to handle over 30 million passengers per annum. True to form, the terminal will not only service the practical needs of the economy and tourism sector but will also be a showpiece, featuring an arched roof that spans 180m across and 52m at its highest point. The geography of the airport and its positioning within the globe lends itself to being a regional, or transiting, hub, whereby passengers may only be in transit, but the carrier, Etihad, and the airport receive the economic draw from the enlarged consumer base. Transit passengers will be serviced by 28,000sqm of retail and food and beverage space. According to the Statistics Center Abu Dhabi (SCAD), the current airport terminal witnessed 284,000 transit passengers in 2014. In the future, this will be partly facilitated by a 163-room hotel in the new terminal.

Naturally, there cannot be a thriving airport without a premier carrier, namely Etihad, which recently launched its fleet of 10 A380s. The fleet will service long-distance flights to Australia, London, and New York by June 1, 2016. Etihad also launched its Dreamliner in 1Q2015, which will continually service to Brisbane—these two launches demonstrating the strong relationship Etihad enjoys with both Airbus and Boeing. There is no sign of slowing down for Etihad Airways, as a $1 billion service agreement has just been agreed with state-owned Mubadala. Furthermore, the Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA) and Miral Asset Management have signed an MoU with Etihad to develop the tourism sector. This will see mutual promotion and development of hospitality, sports, entertainment, retail, and leisure destinations. The three partners will drive growth of inbound destinations and transit tourism to the Emirate. This will be achieved by focusing on marketing, communication, data sharing, cruise industry support, and business and leisure events. The airport expansion and carrier form a key part of the growth of the tourism industry, which is intrinsically linked to the service sector, job growth, and an important segment of GDP. In 2014 the contribution stood at $16.6 billion, or 4.1% of the UAE's GDP, with a total of 308,000 jobs directly created from the travel and tourism sector.