Milan: The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) aims to attract 2.7 million guests to Abu Dhabi hotels by 2012 as it strives to expand its overseas network, a senior official announced.

More than 100 delegates, tour operators and guests attended a special trade and media dinner on Friday to celebrate the opening of two ADTA offices in Milan and Rome.

The authority currently has offices in the UK, Germany, France, China and Australia.

The function was organised at the Four Seasons Hotel, Milan, to coincide with Abu Dhabi's participation in the Borsa Internazionale Del Turismo (BIT) tourism trade fair.

ADTA and four industry stakeholder partners - the NET Group, DBA and Sons Travel and Tours, Eithad Airways (the national airline of the UAE) and the signature Emirates Palace Hotel - have opened a pavilion at the show, the only Arabian Gulf state represented at BIT this year.

ADTA's director, Tourism Standards, Nasser Al Reyami said the opening of the offices sent a strong signal to the international tourism industry to pursue long-term goals when looking to trying to develop international destinations.

"Italy remains an important element in our long-term vision of attracting 2.7 million hotel guests by 2012.

"Our case is strengthened by the plans of Etihad to increase its services from Milan's Malpensa International to Abu Dhabi International to five flights a week from its current thrice-weekly services at the end of March," Al Reyami said during his speech at the dinner gathering.

Etihad will operate an Airbus A330 on the route.

Marco Malato, Etihad Airways country manager in Italy, said there is a huge potential for stopover breaks, making Abu Dhabi International Airport a hub for Italians with onward destinations in Australia, Oman, India, Pakistan and Bangkok.

"The stopover potential will be boosted with our extra flights from Milan. Whereas currently travellers have a choice of 45 onward flights within three hours of arriving in Abu Dhabi on our existing three flights a week," he said.

ADTA is now planning to roll out a progressive strategy to engage the Italian travel industry and consumers via media penetration over the coming year.

Italian cruise line Costa Crociere (Costa Cruises) has declared its intention to enhance its Abu Dhabi sailing schedule next year. The company already takes around 40,000 passengers a year to Abu Dhabi.