The Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has outlined its roadmap for growth in 2023 following a strong 2022 performance, attributed to an innovative, resilient and integrated culture and tourism sector.

Abu Dhabi’s unique culture is central to plans to increase overall visitation to more than 24 million, from 18 million in 2022. DCT Abu Dhabi’s research reveals that culture was the primary reason for travel for almost half (47 per cent) of international tourists. With the rise of the culture-seeker segment, about 4 million visitors are expected at DCT Abu Dhabi’s cultural sites this year – more than one million additional visitors compared with the previous year.

His Excellency Saood Al Hosani, Undersecretary at DCT Abu Dhabi, said the plans to promote and protect the emirate follow a strong 2022 performance that demonstrated innovation, resilience and integration of Abu Dhabi’s culture and tourism sectors.

His Excellency Al Hosani said: “With culture at the heart of everything we do, we have set bold and ambitious targets for 2023 as we promote, protect and progress Abu Dhabi and share it with the world. We are proud to share some of our 2022 results, which powerfully demonstrate how we re-ignited the engine of growth through resilient culture and tourism sectors, with visionary leadership and key partnerships across the different creative industries.

“We are progressing Abu Dhabi by creating new job and career opportunities and enabling growth across the culture sector throughout the culture and creative industries (CCI) while enabling business and leisure tourism to thrive. Our purpose is to share Abu Dhabi with the world and enrich lives.”

With the promotion and protection of culture central to its mandate, DCT Abu Dhabi is building on the legacy of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the UAE’s Founding Father, to strengthen national identity, nurture talent, create better awareness of Emirati heritage and values, and develop a robust and innovative culture scene. The department continues to develop policies to preserve Abu Dhabi’s heritage, the emirate’s museums and culture sites and to curate visual and performing arts programmes, attracting a diverse audience from the UAE, the region and the world.

This year, DCT Abu Dhabi plans to create more than 300 jobs in the fast growing e-gaming industry. The target will be spread across more than 20 new companies with potential for significant expansion, to drive a successful gaming and e-sports ecosystem in the UAE capital.

DCT Abu Dhabi also promotes and protects the Arabic language, with the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Centre (ALC) promoting Arabic proficiency among the UAE community, while supporting the growth of the Arabic publishing industry through key projects like Kalima and Isdarat. ALC’s 2023 goals to attract increased visitation to book fairs and festivals.

His Excellency Al Hosani said: “All of these plans contribute to our position as a key platform for culture and creativity, where thought leadership, cross-cultural exchange, and innovation thrive. Central to this, we are proud to continue the development of key museums for Abu Dhabi, such as Zayed National Museum, Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi and Al Ain Museum, while also hosting cultural events such as the upcoming Culture Summit Abu Dhabi later this year. In this sixth edition we will once again convene leaders from the field of arts, heritage, media, museums, public policy and technology – identifying ways in which culture can transform societies and communities worldwide.”

To support the target of more than 24 million visitors in 2023, the destination offering continues to grow, with the recent opening of many new attractions such as SeaWorld Yas Island, Abu Dhabi, Pixoul Gaming, Adrenark Adventure and Snow Abu Dhabi.

Experience Abu Dhabi, the destination brand of DCT Abu Dhabi, is activating the emirate as a year-round tourism destination that offers exciting, inspiring and restorative experiences that visitors can discover at their own pace. This includes showcasing Abu Dhabi’s living oasis of Al Ain, with authentic experience for regional visitors and culture-seekers.

DCT Abu Dhabi revealed details on 2022 visitor figures from the department’s upcoming Annual Report, underpinning how Abu Dhabi achieved 18 million visitors throughout the year – a 17 per cent increase in visitor numbers from the previous year. Cultural sites achieved a near-perfect 99 per cent visitor satisfaction score last year including the top three most-visited DCT Abu Dhabi venues: Louvre Abu Dhabi, Cultural Foundation and Qasr Al Hosn.

DCT Abu Dhabi organised key exhibitions and an impressive series of visual and performing arts programmes across its different museums and culture sites and welcomed more than 245,000 students to learn about Abu Dhabi’s cultural scene.

The department, fulfilling its mandate to increase awareness of Emirati heritage, inscribed two new Intangible Cultural Heritage elements into the UNESCO ICH lists, including Alheda’a, the ancient art of camel calling and the date palm, and continued to organise major cultural events and festivals.

DCT Abu Dhabi confirmed the growth of both leisure and MICE visitation, revealing that hotel occupancy rates for 2022 exceeded 70 per cent, surpassing the Middle East average. That included a 24 per cent increase in overnight hotel guests to 4.1 million, when compared with 2021, while the average length-of-stay per visitor was three nights, resulting in a significant 18 per cent year-on-year increase in revenue per available room, compared with 2022.

With a long-standing reputation as a global centre for business, Abu Dhabi's position as a premier destination for business events was reinforced as it welcomed 603,000 MICE visitors and hosted 1,210 MICE events in 2022, showcasing its world-leading venues, hotels and supporting facilities.

DCT Abu Dhabi continues to work closely with Miral, Etihad Airways, ADNEC and other MICE partners to attract even more meetings and incentive groups to the emirate, with Abu Dhabi recently named the top Middle East City for Association Meetings by the International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA).