Abu Dhabi looks to trade to help boost UK visitor numbers

UK visitor numbers to Abu Dhabi remain “considerably lower” than pre-pandemic levels, but increased airlift and support from the “very important” trade are expected to help close the gap in 2024.

Abdulla Yousuf, director of international operations at the department of culture and tourism, told Travel Weekly the UK has suffered due to a lack of airlift to Abu Dhabi, which has dropped by 45% since 2019.

Between January and September, 88,000 UK travellers visited the destination, up from 73,000 during the same period last year.

However, Yousuf said those numbers are still “considerably lower” than 2019 levels, but increased airlift from British Airways, which will begin operating daily flights to the UAE destination next year, will help boost visitor numbers.

“Pre-Covid, we had excellent connectivity with all our major source markets, but during Covid some of that airlift was removed,” he said.

“At the same time, we introduced Wizz Air Abu Dhabi and Air Arabia which gave us greater access to our proximity markets, such as the gulf countries and eastern Europe.

“Our UK visitor numbers have suffered due to a lack of airlift which is something we’re addressing with the British Airways flights next year.

“The load factor on flights from the UK to Abu Dhabi is always at 95-99% so we know people want to come and see us, we just need to provide them the means to get there.”

To help support the trade in selling the destination, the department of culture and tourism is revamping its trade training platform to better educate agents on the “value proposition” of selling Abu Dhabi.

Yousuf said the trade is “very important” in securing bookings and he hopes the platform, which will be updated in January, will help boost sales in 2024.

“We will target the UK market on the platform because we really want to show how important the UK is to us,” said Yousuf.

“We’re revamping the entire platform so we can promote what Abu Dhabi stands for and show what the value proposition is for both the trade and the consumer.”

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