Abu Dhabi: Nearly 8,000 new hotel rooms are expected to come online in the Abu Dhabi market by the end of 2018, with 3,000 of those having been already delivered, according to Sultan Al Dhaheri, acting executive director of tourism at the Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA).

Despite the increased supply, he said the supply/demand equation was good, saying the number of visitors to the emirate is also expected to grow.

Al Dhaheri added that even the 8,000 new rooms may not be enough to meet demand.

Abu Dhabi currently has 160 hotels and hotel apartments with 28,374 rooms.

Speaking to reporters on Monday on the sidelines of TCA’s Overseas Office Summit, he said TCA is targeting South Africa as a new overseas market in 2015.

TCA is also looking to increase visitors from the GCC and India by 30 per cent and 20 per cent respectively. Meanwhile, visitors from China are expected to grow by 40 per cent, and visitors from the UK, and Australia are set to grow by 20 per cent each.

In 2014, over 120,000 Chinese guests checked into Abu Dhabi’s hotels — up from just over 45,000 in 2013, and the Authority is looking to capitalise on the Chinese market.

Additionally, TCA is targeting 10 per cent more visitors from Russia, despite the country’s economic issues.

Discussing challenges in overseas markets such as the Russian one, which has long been one the UAE’s main source markets, Al Dhaheri said that the hospitality sector is not dependent on individual markets, and that TCA has been diversifying its targets.

He added that such economic challenges are leading the authority to consider various emerging markets in 2015, citing only South Africa as a new source market.

Meanwhile, Clive Dwyer, director of destination management at Yas Island, who was also attending the summit, said that length of stay was the main challenge facing the industry.

“We need to move from being an excursion to a destination, and that will immediately increase the revenue per available room as length of stay goes up,” Dwyer said.

On Monday, TCA released its performance report for 2014 showing that nearly 3.5 million guests checked into Abu Dhabi’s hotels during the year. As a result, the authority is expected to raise its 2015 target, which was earlier set at 3.5 million.