The opening of the Louvre museum has been a big boost for Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector but it is “not enough” on its own and the emirate needs to push ahead with developing its cultural offerings if it wants to attract more overnight hotel guests, according to a senior hospitality executive.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi opened its doors to the public in November 2017 on Saadiyat Island, marking the first museum to bear the Louvre name outside France and welcoming French President Emmanuel Macron among its first visitors.
The museum is part of a cultural district in Abu Dhabi that is set to house the Zayed National Museum, which was meant to open in 2016, and a branch of the Guggenheim museum, scheduled to open in 2017. While there have been no updates on the opening dates of either museum, a senior official at Tourism Development and Investment Company (TDIC) said in 2017 that the Guggenheim is “not on hold”.
The museums, along with the development of Formula One racetracks and amusement parks, are part of the oil-rich emirate’s plan to diversify its economy away from oil and into tourism.
But speaking to Arabian Business at the Gulf and Indian Ocean Hotel Investors’ Summit (GIOHIS) in Abu Dhabi last month, Khalid Anib, chief executive of Abu Dhabi National Hotels (ADNH), said the UAE capital needs a concentration of museums in order to attract more tourists.
ADNH has seven UAE properties in its portfolio and is currently in the process of adding five more.
“To be honest, there is an effect [from the Louvre Abu Dhabi], but not to the level that we had expected. I think the Louvre [Abu Dhabi] by itself is not enough. Initially, the plan was to have two other museums to create the museum connection,” he said.
Anib said the increased number of museums would help to encourage more tourists to stay in the capital overnight, adding that most tourists visit only Abu Dhabi for a few hours, choosing to stay in Dubai hotels.
“Most customers come from Dubai and visit the [Louvre] museum then they go back to Dubai. They come to Abu Dhabi to visit the [Sheikh Zayed Grand] mosque and go back to Dubai. So once we have a concentration of museums, then the guests will stay in Abu Dhabi,” he said.
“They will say, ‘Okay, today I go to visit the Louvre, tomorrow the [Sheikh Zayed Grand] mosque and then another museum, and that will create a destination…” he added.
The chief executive also said government spending in Abu Dhabi will “start to kick in again” following a healthy recovery in oil prices, after funding having been slow in the past two years.