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Strike While The Irons Hot. Business Opportunities In Abu Dhabi

17th August 2018

Now is the time to strike whilst the iron is hot and identify and take advantage of the huge business opportunities being announced in Abu Dhabi. Get in first for competitive advantage.

Recently in my article Abu Dhabi - Where Is the Market Going, I commented that Abu Dhabi has been positioning itself as a culture and tourism destination. It already has a strong offering of attractions including theme parks (Warner Bros & Ferarri World), cultural sites (Grand Mosque & Qasr Al Watan), museums (The Louvre), festivals (Mother of The Nation) and events (Abu Dhabi Grand Prix). However, this week, Abu Dhabi has announced it wants to position itself as the best destination for leisure, business, sports and events. To support this goal, Abu Dhabi has announced a new AED600 million 'Mega Events' fund which aims to attract the best entertainment and business events. Saeed Al Saeed, Director of Destination Marketing at the Department of Culture and Tourism Abu Dhabi has confirmed there will also be massive marketing campaigns to promote Abu Dhabi.

So this a huge business opportunity for tourism companies and their suppliers to get in on the act and bring their offerings to Abu Dhabi, identify niches and plug the gaps.

Current and upcoming tourism projects

Depending upon your particular tourism specialism, the below outlines the number of Abu Dhabi tourism projects and their values.

Cultural (mosques, museums, libraries and theatres)

Projects: 11

Budget: AED2,753million


Projects: 129

Budget: AED56,755million

Leisure (sports facilities, stadiums & theme parks)

Projects: 8

Budget: AED2,881million

Retail (malls & markets)

Projects: 25

Budget: AED3,528million

Hospitality (hotels & resorts)

Projects: 30

Budget: AED4,098million


Projects: 94

Budget: AED253,293million

Terminal (airport, seaport, rail stations)

Projects: 30

Budget: AED30,391million

Therefore, future investment opportunities in Abu Dhabi include hotels, retail, F&B, arenas, watersports, cinemas, RV parks, beach clubs, spas, indoor attractions and tech-led offerings. I've previously written an article about Tourism Opportunities in Abu Dhabi - maximising your investment which introduces the Tourism Investment Promotion Section (TIPS) of the Department of Culture and Tourism (previously the Tourism and Culture Authority), which will evaluate investors' plans and help them to maximise on the business opportunities in Abu Dhabi.

Business tourism in Abu Dhabi is already a thriving sector. It was recently announced that Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (Adnec) and Al Ain Convention Centre (AACC), both event venues, contributed AED2.3 billion to the Abu Dhabi economy in the first half of 2019.

An increasing number of business licenses being issued in Abu Dhabi

The above opportunities are nicely complemented by Abu Dhabi's growth in business license issuances so far during 2019. This reinforces the confidence investors have in doing business in Abu Dhabi. The UBS Global Wealth Management Investor Sentiment Survey states that in the UAE 84% of HNWIs and business owners have an optimistic stance of the state of the local economy compared to much lower levels globally which are currently at 59%.

To share some sector figures issued by WAM for the issuance of new trade licenses in Abu Dhabi in July 2019:

  • General Trading licenses issued in Abu Dhabi in July up 12.5% compared to June.

  • Construction-related licenses issued in Abu Dhabi in July up 13.2% compared to June.

  • Beverage-related licenses issued in Abu Dhabi in July up 27% compared to June.

  • Restaurant licenses issued in Abu Dhabi in July up 17.5% compared to June.

  • Light transport-related licenses issued in Abu Dhabi in July up 42% compared to June.

These figures confirm investor confidence is increasing. This is likely a direct result of the numerous reforms which have been put in place over the last 12 months and are continuing to be implemented as part of Abu Dhabi's Ghadan 21 initiative. Last year, the Abu Dhabi government announced a AED50 billion economic stimulus to boost the Abu Dhabi economy and to attract Foreign Direct Investment into the Emirate. Changes made to date include dual licenses which enable free zone companies to legally operate on the mainland, numerous visa reforms providing more stability to expatriate residents, Tajer licenses for resident entrepreneurs negating the need for premises for the first two years of operations, the waiving of local government fees when establishing a new business license in Abu Dhabi and also the issuance of that license is valid for an initial period of two years rather than the standard 12 months and the introduction of instant licenses.

More business opportunities in Abu Dhabi

ADNOC, Abu Dhabi's national oil company last year announced an AED45 billion project to create the world's largest petrochemical complex. Looking at the bigger picture, this in itself creates vast opportunities across multiple sectors, not just oil as gas. It will be necessary for sufficient infrastructure to be put in place to accommodate the increased numbers of people living and working in the Ruwais area. This will include, housing, roads, malls, entertainment facilities, schools and healthcare services - everything that would be needed to create a new city. So there are business opportunities in Abu Dhabi for everyone, you just need to investigate what is going on in the Emirate, identify where your business can provide value and then make the commitment to set up.

How Gateway can help you take advantage of the business opportunities in Abu Dhabi

At this point, assume that your organisation has identified business opportunities in Abu Dhabi. For your organisation to take advantage of those business opportunities it will be necessary for it to establish a local commercial presence. Setting up a business in Abu Dhabi will enable your organisation to carry out its business in the Emirate and to employ staff and provide expatriate staff with the necessary visas. Gateway is the authority on company formation in Abu Dhabi and we help foreign companies to set up and succeed in Abu Dhabi by giving them peace of mind about the security and control of their business, as well as ensuring an efficient setup process, so that they can focus on developing their business and getting ROI rather than fathoming the business setup process. To discuss your specific Abu Dhabi business set up requirements email us:

Written by Jenny Hunt, Founding Partner & CEO

Gateway Group of Companies, Abu Dhabi & Dubai UAE


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