ABU DHABI & AL AIN: Well Connected (Part 2)

Considering its strategic geographical location, it is no wonder that Abu Dhabi is set to play host to such a varied, global calendar of events, from Special Olympics in 2019 to the 18th Ottawa Conference on Medical Education in 2018, among many others.

While pinpointing that the emirate is a central hub for international meetings with delegates primarily hailing from Europe and Asia, Vaubell also underscored the increase in worldwide flight connections as vital in facilitating the burgeoning MICE sector.

The main ally to Abu Dhabi’s remarkable connectivity is Etihad Airways.

The immense value of the airline is clearly demonstrated by the fact that in 2016, it carried more than 76 percent of all passengers to and from Abu Dhabi International Airport, a figure which rises to 86 percent when including equity partners, as outlined by James Hogan, CEO, Etihad Aviation Group.

As well as transporting the lion’s share of travellers to Abu Dhabi, Etihad Aviation Group, formed in May 2016, also encompasses Hala Abu Dhabi, the destination management company and professional conference organiser specialist arm of the group.

Demonstrating its commitment to enhancing Abu Dhabi’s MICE sector, Hogan revealed that the division designs, manages and delivers corporate and government conferences.

Specialising in innovative events, Hala Abu Dhabi is able to leverage all the services and stakeholders within Etihad Airways and the city itself, which Hogan described as one of the newest and most exciting destinations.

A MYRIAD OF VENUES

Nevertheless, the capital’s location alone is not enough to attract world-class events and conferences.

The vast array of state-of-the-art venues and facilities provide the foundation for any occasion, and is the answer as to why so many organisers choose the destination.

From ADNEC to Al Ain Convention Centre and the wealth of event spaces throughout the emirate, as Awj Khalil, senior manager, sales and operations, Safar Travel & Tourism, distinguished, “The diversity of venues and facilities [...] equips it as a destination that can host conferences and big events.”

All in all, ADNEC is considered to be the zenith of the capital, featuring no less than 12 customisable exhibition halls covering an area of 13.3ha, along with the International Convention Centre at ADNEC, 20 meeting rooms and events services.

Commenting on what is hailed as one of the largest exhibition centre in the Middle East, van Alphen elucidated, “Certainly key to Abu Dhabi’s MICE success is ADNEC.

It is attracting more and more events annually from across the globe, across a spectrum of industries and interests.”

Dafer Damaj, revenue manager, Cristal Hotel Abu Dhabi, elaborated that it is not just the emirate’s facilities, but its service that sets it apart from competition, making it one of the top destinations for meetings and congresses.

A high level of service is essential, as are stand-out, memorable experiences.

Simona Dobre, area director, sales, Abu Dhabi, Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas, noted, “We are always looking for new experiences in each hotel to attract the MICE segment, as well as MICE publications.

This includes creating tailor-made visits and private events with the option to have 100 percent privacy [with exclusive access to resorts].”

Agreeing with the importance of a top quality service, Vaubell also mentioned that the emirate is considered to be excellent value for money.

Furthermore, she noted that Abu Dhabi offers a range of cultural experiences and a variety of incentive activities.

Indeed, the emirate’s broad range of cultural offerings, encompassing traditional heritage, contemporary arts and events on a global scale, continue to attract visitors.

Khalil outlined just a few of the premier happenings as Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Abu Dhabi Food Festival as well as Cityscape Abu Dhabi.

This is not to forget the plethora of events hosted in Al Ain on an annual basis, such as Al Ain SME, World Heritage Day and Weddex – The Al Ain Wedding Show.

Highlighting the fundamental role that cultural attractions in the wider tourism industry, Agnelo Fernandes, managing director, 1001 Events, in part, attributes a staggering 40 percent year-on-year decline in revenue to the postponed launch of the emirate’s highly anticipated cultural attractions.

Fernandes clarified, “One of the reasons that would have led to the slow-down [of business] is the delayed opening of Louvre Abu Dhabi and the rest of the museums.”

In summary, van Alphen described an array of perks that make the emirate a win for any organiser. In addition to superlative lodging, price-value point and diverse landscape, he listed the opportunity to combine business and leisure with modernity and ease of transportation.

Differentiating the capital from other regional hubs, van Alphen deduced, “Abu Dhabi is big enough to amaze, yet small enough to charm.”