Some 60% of international visitor arrivals in Abu Dhabi are guests making their first trip to the emirate, according to an Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA) survey, and 87% would consider returning.

The interim ADTA report, based on interviews during the final quarter of 2009, is part of a year-long visitor profiling exercise, which saw 1,100 international overnight guests answer a range of questions as they visited the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the emirate’s shopping malls, hotels and other important attractions.

“The survey is delivering crucial insights into key inbound tourism drivers,” said Lawrence Franklin, Strategy & Policy Director, ADTA.

Almost a third of respondents, (31%) travel with their spouses and friends, 28% were visiting on their own while families made up 16% of the sample surveyed.

“One of the most important results was that 86% enjoyed their stay rating their overall experience as very good or excellent, a massive 92% said they would definitely, or probably, recommend Abu Dhabi to others,” added Franklin.

The study also showed that the average visitor stay was seven days, extending to eight days for those visiting friends and relatives. Business visitors stayed, on average, nine days, and those involved with MICE activities visited for five days.

Some 30% came to the emirate after hearing about it from a friend, 23% had been to the UAE before and returned to explore it more, while 15% had visited the region before and wanted to discover another of its destinations.

More than three quarters of those interviewed (77%) took in Abu Dhabi’s stunning Corniche during their stay, closely followed by shopping malls – 73%, the opulent Emirates Palace hotel with 72% while the iconic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque attracted 46% of the visitors.

In the main, visitors bought souvenirs (48%), while 45% spent money on clothes and 24% opted to take home locally produced date products.

ADTA expects to survey 5,000 visitors in the exercise, which will run until September.