Some of the 2,500 travellers stranded in Abu Dhabi after being unable to reconnect to onward transit flights because of the volcanic ash situation which has grounded many flights and close airports in Europe, have been given complimentary tours of the emirate’s top attractions as the local travel and tourism industry sprang into action to assist.
The initiative, spearheaded by Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), saw hotels and Etihad – the award-winning national airline of the United Arab Emirates – pull together to stage guided tours of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for over 200 people who were staying in hotels on Yas Island. ADTA provided buses to pick up the passengers. Other tours took families to the expansive Al Ain Wildlife Park & Resort.
In addition, working closely with its industry stakeholders, ADTA provided the passengers with discounted tours to ‘explore, experience and engage’ with the destination. These included kayaking tours through mangroves, Big Bus and helicopter tours, hot air balloon expeditions and reduced green fees at four of the UAE capital’s golf courses.
The guests also received Abu Dhabi information packs and complimentary gifts.
Martin Duffy was on his way from Melbourne to Ireland when his transit flight was cancelled last Friday.
“This is my first time in Abu Dhabi and I am enjoying my stay so much that I am thinking of coming back and spending a full week to thoroughly visit the place.
“The Grand Mosque was a truly beautiful place, it is very serene and relaxing and the architecture is great. I have never seen a building like it before.”
Irishman Mathew Kelly who was stranded on Saturday morning said the delay was a “blessing in disguise” as it gave him the chance to get to know more about Abu Dhabi.
“I have never been here before and the visit to the mosque has encouraged me to reconsider another visit, more at my leisure, as it is obvious there is plenty to see and enjoy,” he said.
“Etihad staff have been very professional throughout all this and the people in Abu Dhabi are very welcoming and generous, and this magnificent treatment encourages me to return,” Kelly added.
Teacher Mark Wilson, from the UK, who was flying Etihad from Kuala Lumpur before being grounded on Saturday 17 April said the industry’s gesture had helped many passengers relax.
“I am really grateful for the tour to the mosque, which is very impressive. It is my first time in Abu Dhabi and we got to see a very beautiful place of worship where the use of colours and various materials, not to mention the structure’s sheer size, were all striking.”
ADTA said the initiative put its Traveller’s Welcome promise into action.
“We are currently working with partners on creating stop-over programmes for the very healthy numbers of passengers transiting Abu Dhabi International Airport,” said Ahmed Hussein, Deputy Director General, ADTA. “This has been an unexpected trial run but the response has been highly encouraging and demonstrates the potential.
“We pride ourselves on our hospitality here and this was a chance to make the stay of many of the grounded passengers much more rewarding and enjoyable.”