Abu Dhabi emerges as leading events destination

Abu Dhabi emerges as leading events destination Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre

Abu Dhabi has emerged as a leading global meetings and events destination, named Middle East’s Leading Meetings & Conference Destination by the World Travel Awards in 2013, among other titles.

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, organiser of SummerFest Abu Dhabi, the emirate’s seasonal destination extravaganza, has unveiled an action-packed line-up of 98 shows over 47 days during its flagship Show World family activation at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre this year.

Free-to-attend for all SummerFest Abu Dhabi general ticket holders, Show World - one of the core attractions at the festival’s ADNEC hub - will feature seven blockbuster acts performing twice-daily shows during week-long runs.

Show World will be open throughout the 52-day festival, which runs June 27th–August 17th and spans the Holy Month of Ramadan, Eid Al Fitr and the emirate’s traditional EidFest celebrations.

“This Show World line-up will ensure ADNEC is the hottest and coolest place to be this summer,” said Sultan Al Muhairi, manager, SummerFest Abu Dhabi.

“With so many free-to-attend shows and such a varied line-up of international and homegrown stars, families will be spoilt for choice throughout the festival.

“We hope it will be a major draw for visitors from across the GCC and beyond,” added Sultan Al Muhairi.

SummerFest is the latest in a long line of major global events, attracting both leisure and business travellers to the destination.

Last year the inaugural World Luxury Fashion Week, which was the first of its kind in Abu Dhabi, completed a four-day schedule on a high note with the acclaimed Amato, a Dubai-based designer whose collection arrived from Los Angeles.

The event, which took place at the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers - which was named Middle East’s Leading Hotel, Abu Dhabi’s Leading Conference Hotel and Abu Dhabi’s Leading Hotel by the World Travel Awards in 2013 - showcased the best of fashion and food in a luxurious setting, establishing the destination as a fashion centre.

Guests enjoyed a five-course dinner indulgence with a fashion show taking place during each dining course.

Guests were seated at banquet tables configured around a “U-shaped” catwalk that allowed front row VIP positioning for all guests in attendance

Some of the most prestigious prêt-à-porter brands, featuring the likes of Carolina Herrera NY, DAS Collections, Ermanno Scervino, Herve Leger, Nina Ricci, Paul Ka “Black Carpet” Collection and Walid Atallah were well received by the audience during the four-day event.

A dramatic finale show, ‘Confessions of Mata Hari’, stayed the course with Amato’s dazzlingly crafted designs, featuring silver and gold motifs, with models wearing jewel-encrusted masks spikes, studs, crystals and metallic fabrics glistened into his designs, along with sheer materials adding an ethereal quality.

The Amato show completed an already impressive list of fashion flair seen at World Luxury Fashion Week, which presented collections from haute couture houses, Jean Paul Gaultier, Giambattista Valli, Alexis Mabille and On Aura Tout Vu.

From fashion to tourism, Abu Dhabi hosted the World Travel & Tourism Council Global Summit and The Institute of Travel & Tourism’s annual conference - the blue ribbon event of the UK’s travel and tourism industry at the Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, which has previously been nominated for top titles by the World Travel Awards.

Around 450 of Britain’s travel and tourism decision-makers attended.

James Hogan, chief executive, Etihad, right, shakes on the handover for the global WTTC Summit

The Business Travel Sales Force Seminar of SELECTOUR AFAT – the largest travel agency network in France – was held in the same month at the five-star Sofitel Abu Dhabi with around 200 French travel professionals.

It is hardly surprising that Abu Dhabi was listed in the top 100 by the International Congress and Convention Association’s (ICCA) 2012 global city rankings, jumped from 234th place with eight meetings in 2011, to hosting 22 association meetings last year.

The unique destination is one of only two Arabian Gulf cities to make it to the Top 100 rankings – the other is Dubai which made it to 60th place with 38 meetings.

This means Abu Dhabi ranked alongside other major meetings and event cities including: Atlanta, Georgia; Brasilia and Perth, Australia; and higher than established global hubs such as Las Vegas in the US and Cologne in Germany.

“This is a welcome endorsement of Abu Dhabi’s credentials as a recognised destination for the meeting, incentive, conferences and exhibitions industry,” said HE Jasem Al Darmaki, deputy director general, Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority.

“Last year was something of a watershed in our business events ambitions given that in February 2012 we hosted the World Ophthalmology Congress at ADNEC, which was the largest convention held to date in the UAE capital with upwards of 10,000 delegates.

ADNEC hosted the 18th World Routes Development Congress drawing thought leaders from the aviation industry

“Just seven months later ADNEC also hosted the 18th World Routes Development Congress. These headline events put Abu Dhabi firmly on the major conventions and congresses agenda and serve as case studies and proof positive of the city’s ability to come together as one to ensure meetings success,” added HE Al Darmaki.

In 2012 the total number of events hosted at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) - named Middle East’s Leading Exhibition and Convention Centre by the World Travel Awards in 2013 - alone grew to 360 from 232 the previous year, a 55 per cent increase.

In addition, 17 conferences were held that attracted almost 25,000 participants and 111 special events and meetings.

Mike Henderson, group chief financial officer, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre & Alvaro Silva Santisteban, director, Trade & Investment Office, UAE, PromPeru, being honoured at the WTA ME Gala Ceremony 2013

Two years ago Abu Dhabi initiated a ‘One Destination’ collaborative stakeholder approach to winning major meetings business – an approach ADNEC says is paying off.

HE Ali Saeed Bin Harmel Al Dhaheri, Managing Director, ADNEC, explained: “Abu Dhabi’s excellent infrastructure, great airlines and our advanced, award-winning event facility make the emirate an increasingly attractive place for global meetings and conventions.

“We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority and are working together to fulfil Abu Dhabi’s target of achieving a top 50 ICCA ranking within the next five years,” he added.

Abu Dhabi is also making major strides on the international business events scene.
Earlier this year TCA Abu Dhabi launched the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau to drive forward the emirate’s business events ambitions.

The bureau is a dedicated, one-stop entity which supports the growth of exhibitions, conferences, meetings and incentives within the emirate by forging closer links with the industry and providing a full range of support.

Two months later the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau overhauled its Advantage Abu Dhabi initiative aimed at the corporate meetings and incentive travel segments with the introduction of 13 structured offerings designed to enhance the emirate’s appeal amongst sector-specific bookers.

“These initiatives have already paid dividends with meetings having been sealed from corporates within the UK and the Middle East and additional enquiries being assessed from within the region and the USA,” added Al Darmaki.

“We are also actively supporting the Seatrade Middle East Cruise Forum, which we anticipate will bring upwards of 200 delegates to the December 9th-11th convention this year at the five-star Rosewood Abu Dhabi.”

In November the International Conference on Neurology & Epidemiology, which is due to be attended by 600-800 of the most eminent medical practitioners in these specialised fields, comes to Jumeirah at Etihad Towers.

Jumeirah at Etihad Towers has played host to major events in Abu Dhabi

“We recognise the potential of exhibitions, conferences and business events - the MICE sector - to contribute to Abu Dhabi’s wider tourism aspirations and generate significant economic impact for the destination through increasing visitor numbers, hotel occupancies, flights and other visitor and exhibitor spend,” added Al Darmaki.

“We are targeting six major business wins this year, a further eight next year and a total of ten wins during 2015.

“Our strategy is to target in-market opportunities that generate incremental business in the short term while building on international relationships for the long term.

“Our timing could not be better.

“We have our most competitive room rates ever - which can be a deciding factor for major associations and business event organisers looking to secure a host destination and our available hotel stock is now well-suited to large events.

“Our distinctive advantages are competitive rates, intelligent pricing, added value and innovative product.

“There are also compelling socio-economic benefits resulting from this sector including improved education quality across various sectors, knowledge and technology transfer, research collaborations, destination and opportunity awareness, the positioning of Abu Dhabi as a thought leader, the ongoing development of human capital and the catalysing of inward investment.”

Business tourism has been identified as a key economic diversification driver in Abu Dhabi. Research commissioned by TCA Abu Dhabi and ADNEC suggests the economic impact from business events in the emirate is expected to increase by approximately seven per cent per annum on average up until 2020 based on historic performance.

Humaid Al Dhaheri, chief sales & marketing Officer, ADNEC, receives a coveted award from Graham Cooke, president, WTA

Abu Dhabi 2013

FTI Touristik - the market-leading tour operator for Germany, Austria and Switzerland - is to bring 150 of its top selling German travel agents to Abu Dhabi this December for a sales appreciation incentive and educational workshop programme, its first outside Europe.

The workshop will celebrate FTI Touristik’s 30th anniversary and comes as the company looks to grow package sales to Abu Dhabi by 60 per cent this year.

The three-day workshop incentive emerges from the TCA Abu Dhabi and Etihad Airways joint ‘Access Abu Dhabi’ marketing programme.

Abu Dhabi 2014

The inaugural Middle East Luxury Travel Show, an invitation-only, B2B event for connoisseurs of luxury travel, will be held in the iconic UAE Pavilion on Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Island in January 2014.

The show is brought to the United Arab Emirates’ capital following a strategic alliance between organiser Seren Event Management Company and TCA Abu Dhabi.

Volvo Ocean Race returns to Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi city will host the third 2014-15 Volvo Ocean Race stopover from mid-December 2014 until 3 January 2015.

Abu Dhabi will welcome the fleet from Recife, Brazil after one of the longest and most-gruelling legs in the 40-year race history.

The Abu Dhabi In-Port Race, which was won by home favourites Abu Dhabi Ocean Racing in the last edition, will take place on January 2nd 2015, with the fleet departing for Sanya, China the following day. 

TCA Abu Dhabi, which brought the ‘Everest of Sailing’ to the Arabian Gulf for the first time in 2012, and is behind its return, is pushing forward a package-strong and tourism-driven Abu Dhabi stopover, including a fan-friendly Destination Village on the Corniche breakwater, and multiple concert and entertainment offerings, that will leverage the highly sought-after New Year dates.

The race will start on October 4th 2014 with the first In-Port Race in Alicante, and finish with a final In-Port Race on 27 June 2015 in Gothenburg, the Swedish home of Volvo.

The total course distance will be 45,910 miles and will see the sailors tackle an extra Southern Ocean leg between Recife and Abu Dhabi in their brand new Volvo Ocean 65 boats.

TCA Abu Dhabi is once again working closely with a number of governmental bodies to successfully deliver the stopover, including Abu Dhabi Sailing & Yacht Club - the Official Host Yacht Club and key partner in the roll-out of the stopover and junior sailing initiatives; the Abu Dhabi International Marine Sports Club - Technical Headquarters, which will be home to the team areas and international television broadcast compound, and the Event Security Committee, Ministry of Interior, Critical Infrastructure & Coastal Protection Authority, Department of Transport, SEHA, Abu Dhabi Customs, Abu Dhabi Municipality and Abu Dhabi Airports Company.
Abu Dhabi 2015

The 20th Asia Pacific Congress of Cardiology at ADNEC. Hosted by Emirates Cardiac Society and secured via a joint TCA Abu Dhabi-ADNEC bid supported by ECS, the biennial scientific meeting represents the collegiate membership of 18 societies throughout the Asia Pacific region.

It will bring an anticipated 3,000 medical specialists to the city, delivering direct, indirect and induced economic impact of US $16m.

The 16th World Congress on Tobacco or Health - a triennial gathering of international advocacy, public policy and health research experts working together to achieve the goals of the world’s first public health treaty, the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.

The five-day conference, in March 2015, is the result of a collaborative effort by Emirates Cardiac Society, the Health Authority - Abu Dhabi and TCA Abu Dhabi.

It will convene 3,000 specialists from governmental and non-governmental organisations collaborating on medical, public health, and public policy agendas related to global tobacco control. 

The 70th Annual Conference of the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums which will be held at the Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort following an AWPR bid supported by TCA Abu Dhabi.