‘Diversity is the UAE’s strength’

The Danat Resort Jebel Dhanna

AS 2006 looks set to be the year Abu Dhabi emerges from Dubai’s shadow to make its mark on the tourist map, TTN caught up National Corporation for Tourism and Hotels managing director Abdulla Al Romaithi to play the odious comparison game. Excerpts:

Abu Dhabi is so much in the news recently, how is the emirate shaping up in comparision with Dubai as a destination of choice?
Neighbouring emirates have their own strategies in place for the pace at which they want to promote growth in their respective tourism and commerce sectors. As with every successful destination, variety is key. The UAE is rich in diversity and this is its strength. Each emirate has its own unique appeal, together they are complementary of one another.

Is there such a thing as a ‘peak’ in a destination’s popularity? Dubai, for example, has received a fair amount of negative press recently for its rapid infrastructure development and the construction everywhere. Given the latest surge of development in Abu Dhabi is the emirate about to follow suit?
All destinations mature and evolve and to ensure continued success the destination must satisfy the wide ranging needs of international travellers in the business as well as the tourism sectors. We live in a dynamic and rapidly changing world and new opportunities open up all the time. Spurts of growth in infrastructure development are relatively short-term and ultimately the benefits serve both the countries societal and economic requirements and those of the discerning international traveller resulting in a win-win situation.

Some Emirates seem to be moving faster than others in their pace of change what is your opinion on this trend?
Socio-economic factors will undoubtedly influence the type of change that is appropriate for each emirate based on their chambers of commerce and tourism authorities medium and long term plans. Striking the balance between progress and preserving the country’s national heritage are paramount and there is no 'one shoe fits all solution'.

What travel trends have you seen emerging in the UAE hospitality sector?
The UAE as a destination is advancing its established popularity in the leisure sectors. Visitors familiar with the region are keen to explore what the entire country has to offer. Increasingly, new visitors are drawn to the country as the UAE builds on its reputation as a destination that has a variety of options to suit every leisure and business travellers expectations. As more international sectors are opening with the continued success of the UAE's national airline Etihad, air travel will ensure an influx of worldwide visitors from new destinations. Budget hotel accommodation choices, short stay self catering residences and holiday time share are on the table adding a new dimension to an already rich source of lodging options.

How does the recent change in management for some of the Danat properties affect business?
Recently, there has been a change in ownership of several of the Danat Hotels and Resorts managed hotels, these have been acquired by The Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. However, a change of ownership does not naturally result in a change of management. Our current commitment to manage several hotels within the Authorities hotel portfolio will run their course and there are no immediate plans to alter the situation at this moment in time.

How do you see the UAE hotel industry developing in the future?
There is an increased demand from all sectors of tourism and more especially from the growing MICE markets mainly from the central European countries. Investors and hoteliers are constantly challenged to meet the exacting standards required by these important sectors, and this in turn is good for the entire industry as competition and guest expectations drive the high standards that are synonymous with hotels in the UAE. In the current climate the future looks positive.