Abu Dhabi increasingly competitive with Dubai for travelers

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES Abu Dhabi remains in the shadow of its flashier neighbor in terms of most major hotel metrics, but it is making steady gains on Dubai.

Abu Dhabi posted a 42% increase in guest nights and a 27% increase in hotel guests in November, bringing its guest total for the first 11 months of 2010 to 1.647 million—assuring that it will hit its full-year goal of 1.65 million.

Occupancy levels in the UAE capital rose 18% last month to 77%, and the average length of stay climbed to 3.2 nights per person from 2.9. Monthly revenue was up 24% to US$139.4 million, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority reports.

Dubai tourism is likewise on the upswing, although its higher baseline figures make its growth appear less impressive. Through the first nine months of 2010, Dubai reports 5.99 million hotel guests, a 6% improvement over the same period a year ago, the emirate’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing says. Dubai’s occupancy rate has remained steady this year, despite a hotel inventory increase of 16%.

Abu Dhabi is making a concerted bid to increase its tourism profile by holding events that appeal to Western expatriates living in Dubai and elsewhere in the region. Yas Island in particular is becoming an expat magnet, Mark Reed, general manager at Arabian Travel and Tourism, tells Arabian Business.

“In time, Abu Dhabi might take over (Dubai tourism),” Reed says. “It’s catching up, that’s for sure. It’s doing things in a more controlled manner.”