Simon George spends three days in Abu Dhabi, investigating Sheikh Zayed’s long-term vision for the UAE, and its growing focus on events.
Abu Dhabi has, in a short time, built a proud portfolio of international events, with standouts including the WorldSkills event held at ADNEC in October 2017, the FIFA Club World Cup for a second consecutive year and the Special Olympics World Games in March 2019. Medical conferences are also on the increase.
Long-awaited new cultural attractions have come online, such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, a 30-year agreement between Abu Dhabi and the French government, which opened on Saadiyat Island in November 2017. MICE events at the art museum are anticipated.
Warner Brothers’ theme park has opened on Yas Island in July 2018 and is a venture testament to UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s ambition to make Abu Dhabi “an international cultural hub for the Middle East on a par with the best in the world”.
Last year was designated the Year of Zayed, in honour of the UAE’s founding father, and to mark the centenary of his birth and to signify the four core values of respect, wisdom, sustainability and human development on which his long-term vision for the country was based.
In 2006, building on that legacy, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan launched a long-term economic vision for the Emirate. That Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 is still the roadmap for the emirate to diversify its economy and reduce its reliance on oil (~40% of GDP in 2Q 2018).
Part of that vision, made solid in venue bricks and mortar, is the famous ADNEC convention centre. It contains 130,000sqm of event space, 12 exhibition halls, 21 meeting rooms, two conference halls, an innovation lab and a wedding hall.
2018 saw ADNEC host debut events such as the CPhL pharmaceutical exhibition and the Abu Dhabi International Boat Show. Not surprisingly, given Abu Dhabi’s oil wealth, energy/oil conferences feature heavily in ADNEC’s event calendar. ADNEC’s flagship annual conference, ADIPEC (Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition & Conference), which hosts the major oil and gas multinationals, and is scheduled to run from 11-14 November 2019, continues to grow each year.
ADNEC is focusing, too, on innovation and experimental events. In January a new concept called The Hive featuring flexible, more ‘techie’ event space came into operation. Explaining the rationale behind the move, a spokesman said the idea was to collaborate with clients to trial new formats in a new, more intimate facility and “provide them with an environment that is unique, stimulating and loaded with the technology they need to engage in successful sessions”.
As Luis Soares, ADNEC’s Head of Sales – Corporate and Special Events, explained: “The aim is to have the most innovative event venue in the UAE.”
On the hotel front, there is already a rich tradition to build on. Rotana Hotels is one group with a presence in Abu Dhabi dating back to 1992 when its Beach Rotana property opened. Since then the brand has expanded to include the 4-star Pearl Rotana, the 5-star Park Rotana, the recently opened 5-star Saadiyat Rotana and a range of value hotels/accommodation in the city’s business district.
Pearl Rotana, which opened in March 2018, is close to ADNEC and offers 315 rooms and seven meeting rooms, while business hotels, the 3-star Centro and Capital Centre Arjaan by Rotana offer studios and serviced apartments, in the vicinity.
Targeting medical tourism & conferences
Abu Dhabi is now a big destination for medical tourism and, in October 2018, a 10-year agreement was
signed between the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi and the US based Medical Tourism Association (MTA) that will see the opening of the MTA’s first office in Abu Dhabi, as well as the hosting of the World Medical Tourism and Global Healthcare Congress in Abu Dhabi this year.
And IVI (In-Vitro Fertilisation) Middle East Fertility, the world’s leading provider of fertility care services, hosted the region’s largest conference for Assisted Reproductive Technologies (ART) in Abu Dhabi on 30 November 2018.