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Sun 1 Apr 2007 12:00 AM

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Abu Dhabi opts for the lure of the Louvre

The UAE's capital is shaping up to be a cultural and sporting centre worthy of city break status in any reputable tour operator's year-round brochure.

The UAE's capital is shaping up to be a cultural and sporting centre worthy of city break status in any reputable tour operator's year-round brochure.

Abu Dhabi's efforts to develop major sporting events and create a myriad of world-class attractions will also provide some meaty content for future inbound programmes developed by Etihad Holidays, according to the company's manager for planning and purchasing, Ken Bates.

"With the museums planned and new world class sporting events in the pipeline, Abu Dhabi will dramatically increase its appeal as a leisure destination and presents a great opportunity to grow our inbound programmes," he said.

"We also see a huge future for the development of ground excursions, which will offer a great range of new things to see and do in Abu Dhabi, including superb desert experiences."

Bates was speaking after the governments of Abu Dhabi and France entered a 30-year accord to build the Louvre Abu Dhabi in the Cultural District of Saadiyat Island, the natural land mass located 500-metres from Abu Dhabi city, which is currently being transformed by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) into a major visitor and residential destination.

The agreement will see long-term loans of works from the Louvre and other major French museums such as the Musee du Quai Branley, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee d'Orsay, and Versailles, and facilitate the development of educational programmes and art conferences.

Louvre Abu Dhabi will join the 30,000m² Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (GAD), the museum, of New York fame, to be designed by internationally acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.

"The museums will be an important factor in developing cultural tourism to Abu Dhabi and once they are built, we expect to see a significant boost in visitor arrivals" said Bates.

According to Bates, Etihad Holidays' inbound programme, comprising holiday and stopover options, is being distributed across the continually expanding Etihad Airways network and particularly strong demand is being experienced from South Africa, Morocco and Canada.

"The sucsess of the recent Abu Dhabi Golf Championship and announcement that Abu Dhabi will host a Formula 1 car race from 2009 are really helping to put Abu Dhabi on the global tourism map," he added.

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