During a two-day fact finding mission organized by Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), 15 destination management companies and cruise excursion operators operating within the United Arab Emirates singled out opportunities to develop tours and experiences which would create a ‘sense of place’ reflecting Al Ain’s natural landscape, historic significance and cultural origins.
“Diversity of product and an ever-increasing range of creative industry packaging based around the city’s historic and world heritage site attractions is essential to maximise tourism’s contribution to Al Ain’s economic diversification,” said Sultan Al Dhaheri, Acting Executive Director Tourism, TCA Abu Dhabi.
During the whistle-stop tour, the operators traversed time to see how early civilization shaped Al Ain’s development. They visited the neolithic tombs in the foothills of Jebel Hafeet heights and the bronze age settlement remains at Hili Archaeological Gardens. They also toured the Al Ain Palace Museum – former home of ‘Father of the Nation’, Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan – the picturesque Al Jahili Fort and archaeological displays at the Al Ain National Museum which catalogue the city’s unique heritage and history.
The operators – representing leading industry players from Abu Dhabi and Dubai – also explored the cool shady walkways of Al Ain and Al Qattara oases, delved into the remains of an Iron Age settlement deep beneath the Al Qattara Fort and Arts Centre and browsed the recently renovated historic Souq Al Qattara – set to be home to this October’s inaugural National Traditional Handicrafts Festival.
Roy Michael, field manager for Hala Abu Dhabi, Etihad Airways’ DMC arm, said the city has much to recommend itself to tourists.
“We design our tours to tell the story of a country rich in culture and traditions and the heritage village at Al Qattara fort is exactly what tourists want as an introduction to understand how Emiratis lived and adapted to their environment.
“The opportunity to emphasise Al Ain’s designation as a UNESCO World Heritage site offers significant tourism potential. In addition, further infrastructure development in access, facilities and interpretation, as well as co-ordinated visits to sites such as the Jebel Hafeet tombs and the remains at Hili Archaeological Gardens, will help tell the story of the emirate’s early civilisations, add depth to visitor perceptions and help manage the conservation of these sites.”
Al Ain currently has 16 hotels with a joint complement of 2,016 rooms. In the first five months of this year some 147,386 visitors checked into Al Ain’s hotels – a 15% increase on the same period last year. The visitors accounted for 297,960 guest nights – which was up 16% year-on-year – with an average stay of two nights.
“Our focus for Al Ain is to build compelling product to attract increasing numbers of visitors and also to convince those who do visit that there is so much to see and do in this region that warrants longer stays,” added Humaid Al Mheiri,TCA Abu Dhabi’s Accessibility & Tour Operators Unit Head.
Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, www.tcaabudhabi.ae/