(MENAFN - Emirates News Agency (WAM)) The launch of Etihad Airways' daily non-stop flights to Washington D.C. in March 2013 and increased on-ground trade engagement and promotional activities by Abu Dhabi in North America will see a strong uptake in the emirate attracting US visitors, said leading American travel professionals.
Speaking whilst on a fact finding mission in Abu Dhabi, seven of the USA's top tour operators earmarked the emirate's rich diversity of attractions, culture, landscapes and hotel options as a major boon for wooing North American guests.
"Simply put, more air access to Abu Dhabi from the US is going to spur increased interest, and with options to get there from the major hubs of New York, Chicago and soon to be Washington D.C. is going to be extremely helpful in selling the destination," said Nicole Beattie, Destination Manager of Cox '&' Kings, which has offices across North America.
"Abu Dhabi has a wide spectrum of experiences, from cultural to desertscapes to excellent leisure attractions. My perceptions of the emirate have certainly changed from being here, away from thinking of Abu Dhabi as a business destination and more to it being one of leisure. It is a good fit for my well travelled, cultural seeking customers who are looking to try the next new exotic destination," added Beattie, who highlighted the emirate's Falcon Hospital, the largest of its kind in the world, as a particularly eye opening attraction.
As part of the eight day comprehensive tour, which is being jointly organised by Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) and Etihad Airways, the seven strong party took in a wealth of top hotels and attractions.
In addition to also seeing many of Abu Dhabi's leading leisure and cultural products, the group also got a glimpse of the emirate's future, earmarking the upcoming Cultural Distinct on Saadiyat Island - which will see its three core museum projects, the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi come online from 2015 - as a key driver for future North American guest draw.
"Once the museums and cultural elements on Saadiyat Island come online, Abu Dhabi is going to be a much easier sell for customers for sure. Saying that, Abu Dhabi is already fast becoming a truly global destination and I would highly recommend visiting the city now to our guests taking into account what is currently available and, knowing that it will certainly be a destination well worth revisiting as these additional attractions come on line," said Justin Smith, Product Manager, Travcoa, which is based in California.
The emirate's rich events programme, spearheaded by the annual Formula 1 Eithad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which is gearing up for its fourth edition this week, was also a major pull for US guests, and is expected to feature heavily in future itinerary suggestions.
"Visiting the Yas Marina Circuit was a real eye opener. It is very different to a race track in the States. It would definitely be something I would include in my tailored guest programmes, both around the Grand Prix time which is a natural sell plus in general, as the experiences on and around the track, including the Yas Viceroy Hotel, are a must see," added Smith.
Abu Dhabi has welcomed 58,574 US hotel guests in the first nine months of this year, with September alone seeing a 19 percent increase in US hotel guests over the same month in 2011. It makes the US the sixth largest inbound market for Abu Dhabi in 2012.
Etihad currently operates daily non-stop flights to Chicago and New York, and will start daily flights to Washington, D.C. from March 31 2013.
TCA Abu Dhabi also opened its dedicated US office last May, which is based in New York's Trump Tower. To mark the occasion, the authority ran a four day promotion in the city's iconic Times Square, with an Abu Dhabi tent in the famous pedestrian thoroughfare - one of the world's busiest - giving over 6,000 visitors, including more than 120 media, trade and stakeholder guests, a taste of the emirate through a number of heritage-influenced activities.