WITH the opening of a new exhibition centre in Abu Dhabi last month, the UAE capital is finally emerging on the MICE map.
TTN caught up with Rotana Hotels’ Freddy Farid, area vice-president for Abu Dhabi and Al Ain, and general manager of the Beach Rotana Hotel & Towers, one of the best-known convention properties in the emirate, to find out more. Excerpts:
How is 2007 shaping up for Abu Dhabi?
The year looks very promising; Abu Dhabi has emerged as one of the fastest and most growing exhibition and convention destination, particularly with the inauguration of the National Exhibition Centre in February, with IDEX, the largest defence exhibition in the Middle East.
How much is Abu Dhabi emerging as a MICE destination? What is the appeal for the MICE market?
We expect business travel to grow naturally with the economy, which will bring with it an increased demand in business hotels. With the opening of one of the largest exhibition venues in Abu Dhabi to cater for such events, we foresee incremental growth in the MICE business over the coming two years. Amongst our properties in Abu Dhabi, the Beach Rotana Hotel & Towers being the largest venue for meetings, incentives, conferences and events hosted in the area.
With more rooms set to become available by next year, will this impact business?
The growing development of Abu Dhabi will certainly bring new ventures, new business opportunities to Abu Dhabi and the entire region; hence there will always be a growth in business trading which will be reflected in hotel occupancies. We welcome the increase of room supply and encourage the development of new hotels, which brings additional opportunities for growth.
How many Rotana and Centro properties can we expect to see in your area?
The first property to open before the end of 2007 in Abu Dhabi is the Khalidiya Palace Rotana Resort. Rotana Hotels has signed a management agreement with the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority and the Al Mada Tourism Investment Company to build a multi-use complex Park Rotana Hotel & Suites, expected to be complete by mid 2008. The other three properties will be budget hotels under the new brand Centro.
As a leisure destination what advice can you offer agents trying to sell Abu Dhabi, instead of Dubai?
Each emirate has its own flavour and unique attractions. However, the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority is placing great emphasis on leisure-orientated tourism and its efforts, with those of Etihad Airways, are opening up new markets and destinations to Abu Dhabi. This is giving us other opportunities to cater for the tourist market.
What about Al Ain? What particular appeal does Al Ain have for visitors from outside the UAE?
The city of Al Ain is an oasis resort. As ‘the garden of the UAE’, it represents a great attraction to various markets including the German, Russian, and the GCC countries.
What is your advice to agents on selling Al Ain?
Always endeavour to sell our properties linked to Al Ain either for a stopover or extended stay at the hotel, combining both Abu Dhabi and Al Ain or even Dubai and Al Ain.
Finally, do you feel the UAE would benefit from a tourism board for the entire country?
I think definitely one board with one vision and one direction will certainly enhance all the efforts so far put forth between the various tourism boards. This will certainly give more strength to the overall strategies, sharing ideas and experiences and exploring various markets for more opportunities in the future.