Destination Abu Dhabi

Long-celebrated as a cultural hub of the UAE, Abu Dhabi has plans in place to continue to lay claim to this name. Natalie Hami reports.

Distinct in its quintessentially Emirati offering, one could easily say that Abu Dhabi has chosen its projects carefully and wisely, drawing from its singular culture and simply enhancing this in some cases. Abu Dhabi has set in motion a series of projects expected to create a domino effect in a number of its tourism segments, including leisure and MICE, as well as making its mark on the hospitality sector.

According to vice president, Arabian Adventures, Luc Delcomminette, Abu Dhabi is home to a thriving arts scene and is the hub of Arabian culture and heritage. “Made up of over 200 islands, Abu Dhabi has become a must-do for cultural and travel aficionados interested in exploring the Middle East in a safe and progressive yet authentic environment.”

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Operations manager, Al Badeyah Eyes Tourism, Jailene Cruz similarly commented on the emirate’s long-admired historic and cultural draw: “Culture, history and adventure sur¬rounds the emirate. Most of the ancient forts and historical places have been listed as official UNESCO World Heritage Sites.”

Remarking on the emirate’s upcoming plans, Delcomminette told TTG: “Over the coming years, Abu Dhabi will be home to one of the world’s largest concentration of premier cultural institutions as it progresses plans for the Jean Nouvel designed Louvre Abu Dhabi (2015), the Norman Foster designed Sheikh Zayed National Museum (2016) and the much vaunted Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim Abu Dhabi (2017).”

The emirate’s official tourism body, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi), has played a key role in the bid to drive visitors to the emirate and grant them an authentic experience, with one way being the launch of its Abu Dhabi Ambassadors Programme.

This is considered a major aspect of TCA Abu Dhabi’s Emiratisation strategy, playing a pivotal role in realising the Authority’s vision of improving the emirate’s visitor experience through increased interaction with locals.

DOUBTLESS ATTRACTION

These upcoming cultural attractions and initiatives will truly pave the way to creating an enhanced leisure offering, enabling the emirate’s hotels to reap the benefits of this.

General manager, Park Rotana and Park Arjaan by Rotana, Francisco Giles referenced the opening of the Louvre and the Guggenheim museum, commenting: “These two key projects will undoubtedly push the numbers and not only increase the tourism, which will reflect directly on ho¬tels, but will also open a new segment of travellers that are specifically interested in such attractions. Additionally, there is the expansion of Abu Dhabi International Airport which will foster the growth in the hospitality industry through increased numbers of visitors.”

Still in its first year of operations, general manager, Royal Rose Abu Dhabi, Gianni Malerba echoed this sentiment: “The upcoming projects in Abu Dhabi will definitely create new demand from all over the world, which will positively impact the hotel’s occupancy and average rate.”

Meanwhile, director of sales, The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Arnaud Giacometti expressed to TTGhow it has already benefited from an increased number of tourists due to its prominent location; right next to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, however, is indeed looking forward to the new openings on Saadiyat Island.

Furthermore, director of sales and marketing, Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi, Ibrahim Korkut pointed out his belief that Abu Dhabi is still maturing in terms of its product and its draw for the international traveller. “We believe Abu Dhabi will mature especially in the international market year-by-year. Be it cultural, leisure or retail, all of these different aspects and major projects will mutually benefit each organisation.”

And indeed, as the emirate’s leisure offering steadily gains new heights, Abu Dhabi’s MICE segment, and more specifically its incentives sector, attains even more appeal.

According to director, Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, Mubarak Al Shamisi, the developments in attractions will certainly support the emirate’s incentives segment. “Incentive organisers are always looking for new and exciting destinations – Abu Dhabi fits the bill – with many new resorts, hotels, activities in addition to attractions due on line.”

He added: “Yas Island is certainly one because of the breadth of its offering, the ease of access, ease of getting around the island, accommodation on site and variety of the offer for accommodation and meeting space.”

Al Shamisi also remarked to TTG on the opening of the first of three world-renowned cultural institutions on Saadiyat Island, with the anticipated December opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi adding a new dimension to the MICE sector.

“Our Khor Al Maqta area is also popular with incentives. The recent launch of a free evening water taxi service across and around the Creek, in addition to a weekend service linking the area to the Eastern Mangroves Promenade, is adding to this district’s proposition,” he further expressed to TTG.

BREAKING BOUNDARIES

As this culturally and experience-rich emirate continues to develop its various tourism strengths, it comes as no surprise that it has begun to aim high in terms of visitor numbers, as announced recently by TCA Abu Dhabi with the determination to target 3.5 million hotel guests this year.

As such, the tourism body plans to hit the road harder this year with its largest overseas promotion campaign to date, taking in 24 trade exhibitions and 13 road shows across 34 cities in 25 countries.

“We are expanding our footprint to new markets – namely Serbia, South Africa, Holland and Azerbaijan, whilst our established road show product will be extended to take in new destinations including Amsterdam,” said director, promotions and overseas offices, TCA Abu Dhabi, Mubarak Al Nuaimi.

And not forgetting its regional commitment, the tourism body recently concluded the Jeddah International Travel & Tourism Exhibition and beyond, IFT Serbia Travel Exhibition. Therefore, as Abu Dhabi takes to the road to promote the destination, the hospitality industry jumps aboard with its own support.

Group marketing manager, Danat Hotels & Resorts – a division of National Corporation for Tourism and Hotels, Rima Rawass told TTG: “We are going to participate in more trade shows and road shows with TCA Abu Dhabi in 2015 to explore new additional markets such as France, Singapore and Australia.”

Despite this being its first year in operation, Malerba noted that Royal Rose Abu Dhabi has a keen focus on certain markets such as the European, the GCC, Russian and Chinese.

“We have signed in with TCA Abu Dhabi for different key destinations such as Europe, Asia and the CIS countries for both exhibitions and roadshows,” said Malerba, adding that the property will also be present at ITB Berlin.

A similar sentiment was expressed by general manager, Shangri- La, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi, Thomas Guss, who commented to TTG that the property’s focus lies in the German, the UK and the Saudi Arabian markets. However, he explained that potential lies in a number of markets including Spanish, Indian, Scottish and Australian due to new Etihad Airways routes opening up.

Culturally-rich with boundless potential still to be uncovered, Abu Dhabi is taking its tourism product to the next level with a slew of upcoming projects.