A capital plan for business tourism


PARTICIPANTS at the Gulf Incentive Business Travel and Meetings Exhibition (GIBTM), which run at the new Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) from March 13-15, will be given a glimpse of the UAE capital’s future plans for penetrating the lucrative Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) industry.

The UAE capital is gearing up to launch a major thrust on the business tourism sector within three years. “We are currently putting the necessary infrastructure in place but we want participants, and particularly the show’s hosted buyers, to know what the future holds,” said Sheikh Sultan Bin Tahnoon Al Nahyan, chairman, Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority (ADTA), under whose patronage GIBTM is being held.
“Business tourism planning is often carried out two, three or more years in advance of events so it is important that the international industry is aware of the steps we are taking and the progress being made to create a new and exciting destination for this specific industry segment.”
The sector is an integral element of Abu Dhabi’s ambitions to attract three million tourists by 2015 – up from the current level of just over one million.
“Investment in the new Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre is a clear demonstration of our determination to play an incisive role in developing Business Tourism,” said Sheikh Sultan.
ADNEC’s Phase One will host GIBTM and when complete, the state-of-the-art venue will offer 55,000sqm of interconnecting exhibition space, including a 3,168sqm atrium, 18,000sqm of U-shaped concourse, 2,000 sqm of food courts and a multi-storey car park.
Four of the world’s leading exhibition organising companies – including Reed Travel Exhibitions and dmg world media are jointly bringing more than 30 additional shows to the centre.
The ADTA recognizes that to stage international exhibitions and conferences a solid hospitality stock needs to be available and steps have been taken to substantially increase hotel room inventory in the UAE capital with investment from both the public and private sector.
“There is a significant number of world-class projects in the pipeline and the private sector has been encouraged by the fact that occupancy rates are now averaging around 84 per cent – which is one of the highest in the region, so investors are now eager to move in,” said Mubarak Al Muhairi, director general, ADTA and managing director of the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC) – an independent public joint stock charged with developing ADTA’s tourism assets.
Abu Dhabi ranked among the world’s top 10 in revenue per available room growth during the first half of last year according to a study by Deloitte.
The UAE capital is now planning to add 70-80 hotels with some 17,000 hotel rooms by 2015. First to open will be the Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri in the next couple of months.
“A substantial number of projects which have been given the go-ahead also have dedicated convention and meeting room facilities with investors having realised the potential for business gatherings in a capital which still has a strong B2B focus,” said Al Muhairi.
Adding to the equation is Abu Dhabi’s recent flurry of major sporting event announcements – most notably a Formula One race in 2009, besides such . Other events of note include the annual European Tour-sanctioned Abu Dhabi Golf Championships and, this November, the richest cycling race in the world, the Race of Champions, with its prize fund of $1 million.
“These events are taking Abu Dhabi’s name to the world and hopefully bringing the world to Abu Dhabi. Our focus now is to get a solid infrastructure behind us to provide one of the most exciting new venues for a Business Tourism industry which is constantly seeking innovation,” said Al Muhairi.