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Economic Vision 2030: Abu Dhabi shapes up for the future of events

Mubarak Al Shamsi, director of the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau spoke to M&IT about Economic Vision 2030.

How is Abu Dhabi government investing in the city’s MICE infrastructure?

Abu Dhabi is experiencing an overhaul of its economic structures through numerous diversification initiatives introduced as part of Economic Vision 2030; which seeks to achieve 4 per cent non-oil GDP contributions by 2030. For tourism, we aspire to deliver a holistic tourism strategy that will enable Abu Dhabi to reach its target, and MICE plays a major role in this area.

Etihad Airways, our national carrier, currently serves more than 100 destinations across the world and with a massive new terminal underway, the city is expected to serve the increasing number of passengers flying through and to Abu Dhabi – it will house 65 aircraft gates, 28,000 square metres of retail and dining space, 8 airline lounges, and a 3-star transit hotel with 163 rooms.

The government has already announced upcoming plans to further expand the extensive array of facilities and hospitality venues that will enhance the MICE infrastructure and accommodate the ever-growing volume of tourists visiting Abu Dhabi.

The number of hotels in the city is continually growing, catering to all types of budgets. Some of the newest hotels include the Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island, Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas, Rixos Saadiyat, and The EDITION – all of which offer event spaces for different types of functions.

Mubarak Al Shamsi.

Mubarak Al Shamsi.

Additionally, Abu Dhabi offers excellent tourism facilities, providing MICE professionals with an opportunity to unwind after events and experience the capital’s luxury and wide range of offerings.

The capital of the UAE is home to Louvre Abu Dhabi, and some of the global leading brands in entertainment, including Warner Brothers. World which opened in July 2018 on Yas Island (the entertainment hub of Abu Dhabi), and Ferrari World. Earlier this year, the city opened a new mega mall, the Galleria extension in Al Maryah Island, offering a vast amount of retail and dining options. These investments were made to attract more tourists to the country and increase the average stay of visitors to the capital.

What conferences and events are coming up for 2020?

2020 is expected to be a big year for Abu Dhabi’s tourism sector – with hundreds of events planned, we are expecting an influx of MICE industry professionals from across the globe. Starting with Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week (ADSW) in January, the major event will be followed with many more throughout the year, including the International Defence Exhibition and Conference (IDEX), 10th Abu Dhabi Wound Care Conference, Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture, Cityscape, Neurological Rehabilitation and Disability Management Congress, World Urban Forum, Abu Dhabi Muscle and Fitness Show, International Boat Show and Fintech.

 How is Abu Dhabi working with the UK MICE market to bring events and incentives to the country?

ADCB has a variety of schemes and tactics to attract the best events and MICE activities, including providing free and impartial advice to event planners, industry organizers and meeting specialists seeking world-class destinations for all types of corporate and non-corporate events and functions. With international offices across the world including the UK, ADCB representatives work closely with industry partners and stakeholders to identify suitable business opportunities for the booming MICE sector in Abu Dhabi.

Additionally, we regularly participate in MICE events and conventions in the UK to raise awareness of our portfolio, connect with industry professionals and bring business opportunities to Abu Dhabi. Earlier this year, we participated at the Meetings Show in London along with 11 of our stakeholders to promote the capital of the UAE as a world-class hub for MICE activities.

How important is the UK market – any sectors in particular?

The United Kingdom (UK) is considered the leading European source market for tourism and third largest overseas market for Abu Dhabi. In 2018, Abu Dhabi hosted more than 189,600 hotel guests from the UK, and we have witnessed an increase in interest from industry professionals to attend MICE activities in the capital of the UAE.

With major plans underway and a variety of opportunities to leverage, ADCB has prioritized a number of industry clusters which it will focus on during the coming years. This includes oil and gas, petrochemicals, metals, aviation, aerospace and defence, pharmaceuticals, tourism and culture, healthcare, transportation, education, as well as media, financial services and telecommunications services. In this connection, we are working with our international partners to identify suitable opportunities and bring the best events to the capital of the UAE.

What are the latest innovations in Abu Dhabi for the MICE market?

Abu Dhabi has an outstanding capability to host all types of events and functions, making it a highly appealing destination for MICE activities. The city currently hosts over 800 events throughout a year, and the success of these events are due to the brilliant facilities and services available in Abu Dhabi.

In 2019, Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company (ADNEC) has revealed a new space at their venue, The Hive, built specifically for the meetings and conferences sector. The 865 square meters venue was designed with a specific objective in mind – that is to provide clients with a platform for enhanced face to face engagement and knowledge exchange. The impressive space cconsists of an 80-seat auditorium informally named ‘The Collaboratorium’, and ‘The Lab’ that offers 320 square metres of versatile space, as well as three meeting rooms offset from the main area.

Additionally, given that technology has become a priority for travelers across the globe, we have implemented a series of updates to our Abu Dhabi Calendar app in order to enable visitors to book and navigate the city’s top events easily using their smartphones.

 What do you think were the reasons that Abu Dhabi won Leading Overseas Luxury MICE Destination” at the China Travel and Meeting Industry Awards held in 2017?

Abu Dhabi has significantly developed over the past few years, providing MICE visitors with a comprehensive array of unique offerings, complimented with an incomparable level of hospitality.  It features world-class hotels and dining options, unique histories, cultures, architecture, and customs that appeal to everyone. Abu Dhabi is the place where business and leisure smoothly intertwine, and I believe this is what differentiates it from other popular MICE destinations.

 Can you explain the importance of  the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) License for waiver from Value Added Tax (VAT) for all international companies and organisations participating in or holding shows and conferences at its venues across the UAE?

 The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) license for VAT tax waver was implemented in an aim to further stimulate the business tourism sector in Abu Dhabi. It applies to all international companies and organizations based overseas, which participate in or plan to hold shows, exhibitions and conferences that do not exceed seven days.

This move represents a major step done by Abu Dhabi towards an upgrade in the MICE sector. Our ultimate goal is to attract new and globally renowned exhibitions and conferences to the capital of the UAE, and this decision showcases our dedication to making Abu Dhabi a popular MICE destination.