Abu Dhabi is on the verge of a tourism  boom following the launch of major hotels and associated projects, including museums on Saadiyat Island such as the Shaikh Zayed Museum and the Louvre, which would turn the city into the capital of high-level tourism in the region and the world, said William Ellwood Heinecke, chairman and CEO of Minor International , a major Thailand-based hotel chain.
Heinecke, who was announcing the launch of new projects  in the GCC and the UAE, said the company’s push into the UAE was part of a strategic plan to expand its presence worldwide following a strong financial year.
“We are keen to boost our presence in Abu Dhabi and other parts of the UAE and to expand co-operation with the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority  in the next period. We are focusing on the UAE, the second largest Arab economy, and new projects would sharply boost its hotel and resort portfolio,” said Heinecke.
He added that the company has plans to enter Qatar and other GCC countries as 2013 would be another good financial year for the firm.
The World Travel and Tourism Council  (WTTC) had said that the UAE tourism sector is growing faster than the world GDP growth average. The tourism industry had accounted for 14 per cent of the UAE economy in 2012, more than the global average of 9 per cent.
“In 2012, about Dh193.6 billion of the UAE’s GDP had been yielded from the tourism industry and this is projected to increase by more than 3 per cent by the end of 2013,” the WTTC said.
It added that more than 15 per cent of those employed in the UAE work in the tourism sector, which accounted for 383,500 jobs in 2012. This number will increase by 2.6 per cent by the end of 2013 to reach 393,500 jobs.
Statistics show that about 23 per cent of UAE investments  were directed towards the tourism industry, with approximately Dh82.8 billion allocated for the sector in 2012. It is expected that investments in UAE tourism will rise by 12 per cent in 2013 to reach Dh92.7 billion.
The Thai hotel chain will boast 900 rooms and villas in Abu Dhabi and Dubai when its projects are completed by the end of 2013.
“The projects in Abu Dhabi include Eastern Mangroves by its affiliate Anantara, Desert Islands, Qasr Al Sarab, Anantara Al Yamm, Anantara Al Sahel and Oaks Liwa. In Dubai, Anantara Palm Jumeirah will also be ready later this year,” Dillip Rajakarier, Minor Group’s CEO, said.
“For 2013, we are preparing to open an additional Anantara in Dubai as well as in China. We are also in process of building Anantara Doha Island in Qatar and another three resorts in Oman,” he added.
The CEO added that 2012 had been a good year of expansion for the company’s hospitality management business after entering China. He said that China and Indonesia have become key source markets for both inbound and outbound travel.