Abu Dhabi welcomed 23,618 Chinese hotel guests in the first seven months of 2013, up 36 percent over the same period last year, with the emirate expecting further increases as the local industry develops tailored products and attractions to cater for the lucrative Chinese market.

According to Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), Chinese visitors accounted for 44,094 room nights in the emirate’s 146 hotel and hotel apartments from January to July this year, up 38 percent over the same period last year, with average length of stay increasing marginally by two percent to 1.87 days.

Addressing the 2nd Chinese Visitor Summit taking place at the five-star The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal and attended by 75 top-tier Chinese travel buyers, Mohammed Al Dhaheri, Director of Strategy & Policy, TCA Abu Dhabi, said the emirate’s tourism industry is now acutely aware of the need to tailor to specific Chinese needs.

“Local stakeholders are developing specific packages catering for peak Chinese travel times, such as Golden Week and Chinese New Year and are increasingly employing Mandarin and Cantonese speaking staff to take advantage of opportunities afforded by the growing air links from China,” he said. “Abu Dhabi will continue to see sustained interest from the world’s biggest outbound tourism sectors, which spent US$ 102 billion on international tourism in 2012.

“Chinese visitors are staying with us longer and in greater numbers, largely because there’s now much more to see and do with Yas Waterworld, public beaches on Yas and Saadiyat islands and a flurry of new hotels and resorts which have come on line. There are also more than 100 Mandarin and Cantonese speaking staff in the emirate’s hotels, with this number growing all the time.

“With Etihad's equity alliance partner Air Seychelles launch of three weekly flights from Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi in March this year we have seen significantly improved connectivity. This is been further bolstered by Hainan Airlines’ decision to operate code shares with Etihad from Beijing, Chengdu and Shanghai and moving its Gulf hub to Abu Dhabi International.”

According to VISA, Chinese visitors spent 258 million dollars in the UAE last year; up 14 percent on the previous year, with the lion’s share, 85%, going towards shopping, entertainment and accommodation – which Abu Dhabi’s tourism and retail sectors are keen to capitalise on with its growing portfolio of attractions and malls.

“Our shopping offering has expanded, with The Galleria at Sowwah Square on Al Maryah Island bringing a new luxury precinct to the emirate’s financial district. And there’s more on the way with Yas Mall – which will be Abu Dhabi’s biggest mall – due to open on March 26 next year. According to VISA, Chinese visitors spent 182 million dollars on retail in the UAE last year – up 11.4 percent over 2011. We believe with these new mall openings, we will see this figure increase here,” added Al Dhaheri.

Abu Dhabi stakeholders are meeting the top-tier buyers at the Chinese Visitor Summit in a bid to win a share of their annual US $5 million-plus budgets. The opulent Emirates Palace, which reports that almost a third of its current business is Chinese-driven and increasing 25% yearly, has introduced special packages for the traditional 'Golden Week' and Chinese New Year holidays as have One To One hotels, Le Meriden Abu Dhabi, Yas Viceory Hotel, Mercure Grand Jebel Hafeet and Jumeriah at Etihad Towers.

“Meanwhile, our entertainment destination, Yas Island, has introduced Mandarin and Cantonese tour guides to service Chinese travellers' needs at some of its key assets. Eithad Airways is also actively pursuing the market. Besides the regular UAE - 5 days 3 nights - leisure group tour, it’s working with Ctrip to develop new tour patterns to include the UAE into popular, multi-destination tours,” explained Al Dhaheri.

The two day Chinese Visitor Summit, which concludes Tuesday, matches qualified Chinese travels buyers with travel providers, DMCs, hoteliers, attractions and retailers that have identified the value and potential of the Chinese audience for their business success.

As part of its ongoing outreach, TCA Abu Dhabi is currently leading an eight strong delegation of the emirate’s tourism stakeholders at the China Incentive, Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition (CIBTM) exhibition in Beijing, which ends 4th September.