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Alongside sports, both art and culture are at the heart of Abu Dhabi's tourism strategy

In a bid to carve out a separate niche in the sector from its sister emirate Dubai, billions of dollars are being invested in establishing Abu Dhabi as a regional hub for culture.

Outposts of Paris's Louvre and New York's Guggenheim museums are being built on the flagship Saadiyat Island, a $27-29bn luxury mixed-use development from the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC). More about Saadiyat Island can be read elsewhere on this site.

"The market that Abu Dhabi is seeking to attract is educated, sophisticated people who are interested in the culture of the UAE," said Lawrence Franklin, director of strategy at the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority.

"Tourism development will be a constrained and sustainable exercise. It will not be development at any cost." So Abu Dhabi is aiming for the top of the market.

To accommodate the expected influx of visitors, Abu Dhabi plans to boost the number of hotel rooms on offer from 13,000 today to 30,000 by 2013.

About 8,000 additional rooms are expected to become available next year.

However, as a result of the global financial crisis, some tourism-related construction projects are likely to be postponed until market conditions improve. The UAE is being affected by the global economic downturn, like everywhere else!

"Reprioritisation needs to be looked at in association with the government, for pure tourism projects that are hard to finance commercially," said Lee Tabler, CEO of TDIC.

He added that schemes yet to be launched will be reviewed, but those under construction will move ahead.

"Abu Dhabi is still in a very strong position," Franklin told the conference. "A lot of demand for tourism products and services in Abu Dhabi is generated from within the region, and as the region remains strong, that demand will [also] remain strong."

Abu Dhabi's shortage of hotel beds will ensure that occupancy levels remain high, despite the global economic slowdown. There are far more hotel beds in Dubai than in Abu Dhabi .

However, Abu Dhabi has far greater oil wealth, so it is in a stronger position to weather a global economic down-turn. Of course, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are partners in the UAE, so although there is a certain amount of healthy business rivalry, there is also a great deal of co-operation, for their mutual benefit......and the UAE, as a whole!

With business also an important driver of visitor numbers to Abu Dhabi, recent investments in state-of-the-art facilities for hosting conferences and exhibitions are expected to ensure continued growth in the business tourism market.

"There will be a slowing of projects and a reduction in the number of hotels coming on stream, but there will be this continued growth," Paul MacPherson, director of the Jumeirah Group, told delegates.