ABU DHABI, UAE - Indian and Russian guests are the new toast of the capital.
While domestic tourists still form the biggest pool of clients for the emirate, India is the largest overseas market for Abu Dhabi.
India toppled the United Kingdom, which was the largest market in first half of 2012. More than 80,000 Indian guests stayed in Abu Dhabi's hotels in the first half of the year, a 22 per cent rise on the same period last year.
They stayed an average of 4.17 nights. More than 78,000 Britons stayed in the emirate's hotels from January to June, followed by Germany with 62,000 guests.
In the first half of the year, Russians stayed the longest in the emirate's hotels, checking in for about six nights, a 6 per cent increase over the same period last year.
The number of visitors from Russia was, however, smaller than those from Germany and the United Kingdom with a little more than 13,000.
"We are benefiting from increased destination awareness in India following the opening a year ago of a dedicated promotions office there and also of increased air access from the country following Etihad Airways' equity stake in Jet Airways and the move by the Indian carrier of its Middle East hub to Abu Dhabi," said Mubarak Al Muhairi, the director general of Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA) Abu Dhabi, which yesterday released data for the first half of the year.
Air traffic from Abu Dhabi airport to India grew by 18 per cent between January and June this year over the same period last year, Abu Dhabi Airports Company (Adac) said yesterday. It was followed by traffic to Saudi Arabia, Germany, Thailand and the UK.
For the Thai hotel group Anantara Hotels, Resorts and Spas, which has four properties in Abu Dhabi, the Russian and Indian markets remain potential growth areas.
"We are aiming for a pickup in growth towards the end of summer, which should be in response to all our public relations and sales efforts," said Nancy Nusrally, the area public relations manager of the hotel group in Abu Dhabi.
"With the recent launch on Sir Bani Yas Island, we are aiming for greater response from the Russian market who are known to target beach resorts."
The top source markets for the chain in Abu Dhabi remain the domestic market, Germany, the UK, France, Australia and Holland.
Overall, the emirate recorded an increase of 12 per cent in the number of guests staying in its 145 hotels and hotel apartments for the first half of this year compared to the same period last year.
Abu Dhabi also announced plans to meet growing demand from cruise ship passengers.