The challenge however, he says, will be to sustain the growth and create new opportunities in a rapidly evolving market.
Although, he notes that Abu Dhabi offers opportunities for investors as well as a diverse range of tourist attractions that continue to appeal to a growing number of international visitors and travellers. In addition, its business tourism sector has emerged as one of the key drivers of non-GDP growth.
“Both leisure tourists and business tourists bring incredible value to local economy, resulting in high occupancy levels of the emirate’s hotels throughout the year and creating thousands of new job opportunities in the hospitality and tourism sector. Developers in the emirate need to invest more in luxury hotels, resorts, waterfront developments and family-orientated attractions to meet the demand in this segment and attract more international visitors.”
Business tourism on the back of large-scale international events is rising in Abu Dhabi. In February, The National reported that Abu Dhabi’s biggest exhibition venues recorded a 30% leap in visitor numbers, giving the emirate an economic boost of about AED 3 billion.
The exhibition sector plays a key role in the government’s strategy to increase the role of business tourism and carving a path towards diversification.
Craig Plumb, Head of Research at JLL Mena, agrees. International events such as Expo 2020, will lead to opportunities in Abu Dhabi, such as affordable housing in the north of the emirate. “It will also support the growth of the cultural tourism offer in Abu Dhabi, with more attention focussing on Saadiyat Island as the first two major museum projects are completed,” he says. Plumb will also be speaking at this year’s Conference.
Plumb says that other areas of opportunities includes, Build to Suit (BTS) options for government agencies and alternative investments such as education, healthcare and car parks.
While many have raised questions regarding Abu Dhabi’s market softening, Plumb says that all real estate markets go through cycles, experiencing peaks and troughs along the way. “This is perfectly normal and acceptable to investors who are looking at real estate as a long-term investment. As the UAE market grows and matures the volatility of the market will decline, making returns more stable and predictable, which will itself attract more investment,” he concludes.