The authority is also planning to build a dedicated visitor centre in Al Gweifhat to better educate road travellers from Saudi Arabia on the region’s attraction as they pass through the area to enter the UAE.
The two latest moves were announced at the MEED Al Gharbia Development Forum held at The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort today.
“There is substantial opportunity for inward tourism investment into the unique Al Gharbia region, where the desert meets the sea and where visitors can be among the tallest dunes in the world in the morning and go diving in waters rich in marine life in the afternoon,” Mohammed Al Dhaheri, Strategy & Policy Director, TCA Abu Dhabi told delegates.
“Currently there are only nine hotels in Al Gharbia – and only one of these is in the mid-range, four-star category. The hotels there now are performing quite well with Al Gharbia recording Abu Dhabi’s highest average room rate of around AED690.”
Demand for hotel accommodation in Al Gharbia is increasing. The first quarter of this year saw a 114% leap in the number of guests staying in Al Gharbia’s hotels compared to Q1 2013. The number of guest nights delivered doubled on Q1 last year despite the fact that there has been a 74% increase in the number of rooms available.
“New resorts have opened on Sir Bani Yas Island but the problem the region faces is with the average length of guest stay – which is currently coming in at only 2.64 nights with average occupancy at 65%,” said Al Dhaheri. “Nevertheless we are heading in the right direction as occupancy is up 12% on last year.
“There is room for growth and new initiatives are opening up development opportunities. The new Rotana Jet flights from Abu Dhabi’s Al Bateen Executive Airport and Dubai International’s Terminal 2 are assisting access to Sir Bani Yas Island and plans are being progressed to upgrade Sir Bani Yas Airport to international status which will further boost access,” said Al Dhaheri.
The TCA Director said hospitality investor returns in Al Gharbia have proved healthy with total hotel revenues in the region in Q1 this year surging 83% to AED67.3 million.
“The way ahead is to make the most of what the region has,” said Al Dhaheri. “This includes spectacular landscape with a picturesque fishing village in Mirfa, an appealing oasis town in Liwa, substantial heritage sites with ancient forts, the world’s tallest dunes in the Liwa Desert at the entrance to the Empty Quarter (Rub Al Khali) and kilometre after kilometre of stunning coastline with waters rich in marine life.