People experience the VR of Sir Bani Yas Island at Abu Dhabi stand, on the third day of Arabian Travel Market 2018 at Dubai World Trade Centre. Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/ Gulf News

Dubai: Abu Dhabi’s tourism authority is preparing to legalise Airbnb imminently, according to the emirate’s top tourism official.

“We are in the final stages of regulating [Airbnb]. We had meetings with them, and soon we will announce it,” said Sultan Al Daheri, executive director of tourism at Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism, in an interview with Gulf News.

Al Dhaheri said that it was important to integrate Airbnb, an online platform which allows people to rent their apartments and villas for days or weeks, in to the capital’s accommodation mix.

“It’s something that we need to introduce as a destination. It’s a trend, and we need to cater to the segment that are looking for similar experiences,” he added.

Despite a significant delay in its arrival caused by legal uncertainty, Airbnb is finally gaining a foothold in the UAE market, emboldened by regulators who are now keen to promote Airbnb’s offering of homes to a more youthful, intrepid audience.

“Policymakers in the region are increasingly recognising the added value of Airbnb in growing and diversifying tourism sustainably,” Airbnb’s general manager for the Middle East and Africa, Hadi Moussa, told Gulf News last month in an email.

The service is legal and regulated in Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah.

Currently, however, experts say that landlords using the online home-renting business in other emirates could face legal problems.

In Abu Dhabi, for instance, renting a villa or apartment on Airbnb could leave the owner liable to criminal charges.

Renting your property on the site, outside of Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah, may leave you “exposed to certain risks,” said to Malek Al Rifai, an associate in Al Tamimi & Co’s real estate practice.

Meanwhile, the senior tourism official said that the Louvre Abu Dhabi was contributing positively to the city’s visitor levels.

Al Daheri added that he was actively working with Etihad Airways to bundle packages for tourists seeking out Abu Dhabi’s cultural offering, which now includes the famous French museum, the Zayed National Museum, and will eventually feature the Guggenheim too.

“Culture is an essential part of what we do, and our strategy. The Louvre Abu Dhabi has really put us on the map,” he said.

Currently, the museum averages 3,000 to 5,000 visitors per day on weekdays, and up to 9,000 per day on the weekends.