From exploring the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to riding the world’s fastest rollercoaster, there is something to suit everyone in the UAE’s dynamic capital city. As a meeting point between east and west, Abu Dhabi combines modernity and tradition, boasting a host of world-class modern attractions while still honouring its rich Gulf culture. Here, event planners are simply spoilt for choice, with convention itineraries offering a perfect blend of business and pleasure.
Thanks to this wealth of modern facilities and natural attractions, it is perhaps unsurprising that Abu Dhabi’s MICE industry is booming. For three consecutive years, the city has won the Middle East’s Leading Meetings and Conference Destination award at the World Travel Awards in recognition of its unique offerings for business travellers. As industry leaders continue to flock to the emirate to conduct business, Abu Dhabi’s MICE sector is expected to grow by six percent annually until 2020.
What’s more, with oil prices now stabilising and the nation beginning to diversify away from its dependence on petroleum, the UAE economy is flourishing across all sectors, with its capital city generating around two thirds of the state’s wealth. As such, Abu Dhabi is not just a business hub for the UAE, but for the entire Gulf region.
Catering to conventions
Abu Dhabi’s growing appeal among business travellers can be largely attributed to the incredible range of facilities available across the emirate. No matter the size of the event or its focus, Abu Dhabi is equipped and ready to meet any need. Home to some of the world’s biggest and best hotels, event organisers can choose to welcome guests in the city’s luxurious Emirates Palace, the Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi or the St Regis Hotel, all of which boast designated meetings and exhibition spaces.
In addition to these world-class hotels, the city is also home to the purpose-built Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), the most modern venue of its type in the Arabian Gulf. With more than 73,000sq m of floor space, the facility boasts 20 meeting rooms and 12 state-of-the-art, interconnected exhibition halls, in addition to two large conferencing rooms. These business spaces are complemented by a range of on-site restaurants, cafés and shops, which enable visitors to fully relax and enjoy their downtime.
For conference organisers looking to create a truly unforgettable event, Abu Dhabi also offers a range of alternative venues. Situated in the pristine waters of the Arabian Gulf is Zaya Nurai, Nurai Island, a private island venue that provides a perfect retreat for guests seeking the utmost exclusivity. Just a 10-minute boat ride from the mainland’s own Saadiyat Island, Nurai sports a number of holiday villas, while its extensive events lawn is the ideal spot for any and all business meetings, conferences and product launches. The location simply oozes luxury, making it the ideal setting for those looking to thoroughly impress their guests.
With a combination of world-class facilities and local expertise, Abu Dhabi is a unique and flourishing
For those partial to a round of golf, the award-winning Yas Links golf club might just be the perfect venue. Located a stone’s throw from Ferrari World Abu Dhabi – the world’s first Ferrari theme park – Yas Links is unique in style and design, complementing the natural surroundings of Yas Island and Yas Marina. From the picturesque events lawn, Yas Links boasts stunning views of the Arabian Gulf, mangrove trees and the city skyline, showing guests the very best that Abu Dhabi has to offer. The venue can accommodate up to 500 visitors, with its unique yet functional events spaces perfectly combining work and play.
For cricket fans, meanwhile, there’s the state-of-the-art Sheikh Zayed Cricket Stadium to consider. Just a 20-minute drive from the city centre, the venue can accommodate events of any size, from large-scale sports and entertainment events to conferences, exhibitions and smaller-scale meetings.
Once work is over for the day, business travellers can watch Abu Dhabi truly come alive. The vibrant city is famous for its world-class attractions, boasting a plethora of luxury spas, expansive shopping malls and unbeatable restaurants. While these facilities certainly prove popular among tourists, it is Abu Dhabi’s more adventurous options that really make the city a unique destination for business delegates.
The famous Abu Dhabi desert safari is an enduringly popular attraction, and is a great way to experience the emirate’s breathtaking natural landscape. In a once-in-a-lifetime experience, guests are transported across the sandy deserts for a spot of dune bashing in a 4×4 SUV, and are then shuttled to an authentic campsite for camel rides and sand boarding. As evening falls, guests are treated to a barbecue dinner and a traditional belly dancing show, marking the end of an unforgettable day on the dunes.
If travellers feel like getting away from the sand, they can always choose to experience the city from the water. The Jalboot ferry service allows visitors to take in spectacular views of the city and its skylines from the comfort of a fleet of air-conditioned catamarans, which weave around Abu Dhabi’s numerous waterways with ease. For an even more luxurious experience, guests can climb aboard the capital’s largest catamaran, which – at 74 feet in length – boasts a spacious ‘trampoline’ deck that can accommodate up to 65 people.
Once aboard, guests can sunbathe and relax as the catamaran sails towards its destination for the day: an exclusive private island. Here, travellers can indulge in a spot of snorkelling, keep watch for passing pods of dolphins, or simply chill out on the island’s pure white sands.
Building business links
But despite Abu Dhabi’s ongoing economic success, the city is still striving for more. At the top of the emirate’s agenda is building an open, efficient and globally integrated business environment, alongside the continued strengthening of international business relationships. In keeping with this global vision, the Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau has launched its Advantage Abu Dhabi programme, which provides invaluable support to business events in the region.
For international conferences and exhibitions looking to host their events in the emirate, Advantage Abu Dhabi is on hand to assist with start-up grants, government endorsement, leadership patronage, cost rebates and much more. With the help of Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau, event organisers are able to foster useful business relationships within the community, integrating some local flavour into their events and enhancing the overall experience for attendees.
In addition to this valuable assistance, events in Abu Dhabi are enhanced by the nation’s world-renowned Arabian hospitality, with guests warmly welcomed on arrival and attentively looked after for the duration of their stay.
With this combination of world-class facilities and local expertise, Abu Dhabi is a unique and flourishing business destination. Combining rich cultural heritage with modern, practical venues, the emirate has much to offer business travellers in their work hours and in their hard-earned downtime. Mixing business and pleasure has simply never been as easy as it is in Abu Dhabi.