Marriott Hotel & Marriott Executive Apartments Downtown Abu Dhabi Marriott Hotel & Marriott Executive Apartments Downtown Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI & AL AIN: Top of the Agenda (Part 1)

DESPITE ITS STRONG EMPHASIS ON MICE IN RECENT YEARS, THE TOURISM INDUSTRY IN ABU DHABI WAS NOT IMMUNE TO THE CHALLENGES OF 2016.

HOWEVER, WITH A STELLAR LINE-UP OF EVENTS PLANNED, THE EMIRATE IS PULLING OUT ALL THE STOPS TO REAFFIRM ITS POSITION AS THE LEADING MICE DESTINATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST.

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) revealed that in 2016, the emirate was lauded as the fastest-growing destination in the Middle East for attracting annual conference and associations thanks to the significant efforts of Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau.

So much so, that the International Congress and Convention Association placed the capital in 73rd place in terms of cities around the world that attract international associations annually.

With successful applications to host 14 conferences, expected to attract more than 35,000 delegates, TCA Abu Dhabi disclosed that 2016 was a record-breaking year in terms of the number of bids won.

While this is an indicator of the future for the hospitality industry, with the fruits of this labour yet to be yielded, Abu Dhabi already has an established MICE sector, accounting for a substantial number of stays for addresses.

Enad Tannous, general manager, Centro Capital Centre and Capital Centre Arjaan by Rotana, enthused, “At Centro Capital Centre and Capital Centre Arjaan the contribution from MICE business was 35 percent and 15 percent, respectively for 2016.”

However, while also noting that between 20 – 30 percent of all guests are attending meetings or conferences, Mathieu van Alphen, general manager, Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi, underscored that 2016 saw a decrease in the market.

Yet, van Alphen indicataed, “Abu Dhabi is emerging as destination of choice, thanks to its premium air and ground transport services, excellent selection of lodging choices, the ever-growing culinary landscape, and superior amenities such as Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), Saadiyat Island, and Yas Island.”

Corroborating the view that 2016 was more of a challenge than 2015, Amina Maifi, public relations and marketing manager, Mecure Abu Dhabi Centre Hotel, ascribed this to both the oil and gas recession and the huge influx of new hotels in recent times, thus creating increased competition amongst hoteliers, driving down revenue.

Overall, in 2016, the number of guest arrivals across the destination jumped eight percent, according to TCA Abu Dhabi’s Monthly Hotel Establishments Report.

Nevertheless, all other parameters saw declines, including number of guest nights, average length of stay and occupancy, down two percent, nine percent and three percent, respectively, over 2015. Ultimately, hotels suffered with total revenue plummeting nine percent.

In contrast to the emirate-wide trend and boasting what is hailed as one of the largest conference centres in Abu Dhabi, as well as 13 meeting rooms, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers has welcomed an exceptionally positive year in terms of MICE.

Demeiter Vaubell, marketing communications manager, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, recounted a 10 percent year-on-year surge in terms of room nights for MICE events in 2016, and a 17 percent jump in groups business. With a focus on providing personalised services with experienced meeting planners, along with targeting emerging source markets and participating in exhibitions and road shows, the property’s confidence in the sector is clear.

Despite having only opened in September 2016, David Lance, general manager, Marriott Hotel Downtown, Abu Dhabi and Marriott Executive Apartments Downtown Abu Dhabi, illustrated that the property has already hosted momentous and diverse events.

As well as receiving more than 300 participants of the Travel Agents Association of India in October 2016, Lance added, “In November 2016, the hotel [hosted] the first annual women’s professional golf tournament to be staged in Abu Dhabi ever – the Fatima Bint Mubarak Ladies Open.”