Dubai: Despite a tough Arab Spring period, Abu Dhabi hotels received a record 2,111,611 guests in 2011, beating its target for the year of 2 million guests by 6.5 per cent or over 100,000, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) said yesterday in a statement, terming 2011 the most successful year for the capital's hotel sector.
December was the highest achieving month of the year, with 207,723 guests checking into the hotels and hotel apartments, a 26 per cent rise over December 2010.
While domestic tourism accounted for 39 per cent of 2011 bookings in Abu Dhabi hotels, the GCC — including the UAE — made up 45 per cent of guests, and the non-GCC Arab countries accounted for 11 per cent.
Tourists from Europe, meanwhile, accounted for 18 per cent, followed by Asia with 14 per cent, ADTA said.
"These results should be viewed as highly encouraging when viewed against a background of world economic uncertainties which are impacting many destinations," Mubarak Al Muhairi, Director General of ADTA, said in a statement.
This year's prospects
"It leaves us well-placed to build for 2012, for which we had initially targeted 2.3 million but, in conjunction with stakeholders, we will now reassess to see if this too, can be stretched," Shaikh Sultan Bin Tahnoun Al Nahyan, ADTA Chairman, said in a statement.
Asked what 2012 had in store for the capital's hotels, Konstanze Auernheimer, Director of Marketing and Analysis at hospitality consultancy STR Global, said the year is a difficult one to judge.
"The economic environment is getting more and more difficult on a global basis and in the source markets for Abu Dhabi, therefore, it might be a more modest performance than we have seen in 2011," he told Gulf News.
According to ADTA estimates, while occupancy levels in Abu Dhabi hotels last year touched 69 per cent (up 7 per cent over the previous year), revenues rose 3 per cent to Dh4.37 billion while room revenues increased 2 per cent to Dh2.3 billion.
Also, with the average room rate slipping by 14 per cent to Dh490, guest nights in the hotels were up 22 per cent to 6.3 million, with the length of stay expanding 5 per cent to 2.97 nights.
STR Global's year-end results, meanwhile, show occupancy increasing 5.9 percentage points to 65 per cent and an ADR (average daily rate) decline of 15.6 per cent to Dh611, according to Auernheimer.
The 2011 performance can be attributed to a number of factors including string opening of new hotels.
As Shaikh Sultan said, "This is a highly encouraging result in a year which has seen substantial additions to our hotel and resort inventory, including several five-star beach properties opening up Saadiyat Island to guests."
He said that there is a clear correlation between this increase, opening of ADTA offices in Russia and the US, and its heightened focus on the Asian markets. Russia performed well last year, ADTA said, with guest arrivals rising 44 per cent on the year to 13,989.
Other growth factors include expansion of Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways' route network as well as increased air access into the emirate with new carriers launching services to Abu Dhabi.
All this coupled with a substantial increase in cross-network marketing undertaken by the arrival of major new hospitality brands led to the robust performance of the hotels, according to the ADTA chief.
"We agree with the points raised by the ADTA. We have seen as well that travellers diverted away from destinations in Northern Africa and chose stable destinations across the Arabian Peninsula and Southern Europe," said Auernheimer.