SPARKLING ALLURE

Abu Dhabi’s events spa­ces

Business Traveller (India) - - CONTENTS - Ara­bian Sands.

L ast year, Abu Dhabi was ranked one of the world’s fastest-grow­ing des­ti­na­tions by Mastercard. It is gear­ing up for an event­ful few years, with the long-awaited Lou­vre due to open by the end of the year, and other im­pres­sive new at­trac­tions un­der de­vel­op­ment.

In 2016, the UAE cap­i­tal wel­comed 4.4 mil­lion vis­i­tors, up eight per cent on the pre­vi­ous year. Events such as the Abu Dhabi Sum­mer Sea­son, Abu Dhabi Food Fes­ti­val and Qasr Al Hosn Fes­ti­val, which cel­e­brates the emi­rate’s his­tory and her­itage, have helped to tempt tourists.

Visi­tor num­bers are likely to grow still fur­ther thanks to a new ter­mi­nal build­ing at Abu Dhabi air­port, open­ing in 2019. Ex­pected to in­crease an­nual ca­pac­ity to 30 mil­lion pas­sen­gers, it will have 28,000 sqm of re­tail and din­ing space, eight air­line lounges and a 163-room tran­sit ho­tel.

Still, the emi­rate is not only look­ing to pull in tourists – it also wants to at­tract meet­ing and event plan­ners. The con­ven­tion bureau has de­vel­oped the Ad­van­tage Abu Dhabi pro­gramme to at­tract busi­ness gath­er­ings aligned with the“Abu Dhabi Eco­nomic Vi­sion 2030”, the city’s long-term growth strat­egy. Its cen­tral aim is to di­ver­sify the UAE’s econ­omy be­yond oil and gas, by in­vest­ing in sec­tors such as avi­a­tion, tourism and fi­nan­cial ser­vices.

The pro­gramme of­fers fi­nan­cial in­cen­tives and mar­ket­ing sup­port to events that show their value within th­ese in­dus­tries. It seems to be work­ing – a record 14 con­fer­ences were se­cured last year, and are ex­pected to draw more than 35,000 del­e­gates to the re­gion.

FRENCH CON­NEC­TION

The most an­tic­i­pated of Abu Dhabi’s up­com­ing open­ings, and one that should be on any fu­ture event itin­er­ary, is the Lou­vre Abu Dhabi. Orig­i­nally due for 2012, the dome-shaped build­ing on Saadiyat Is­land has fi­nally taken shape. It was de­signed by Pritzker Prize-win­ning ar­chi­tect Jean Nou­vel and has been built on a man­made is­land.

About two-thirds of the mu­seum is cov­ered with a white lat­tice­work disc, in­spired by the in­ter­lac­ing of palm leaves, used tra­di­tion­ally as roof­ing ma­te­rial in the re­gion. The US$650 mil­lion mu­seum will con­tain 600 pieces of art across 23 halls, with works bor­rowed from the Lou­vre in Paris, the Musée d’Or­say, Cen­tre Pompidou and the Château de Versailles.

Also on Saadiyat Is­land, the Guggen­heim Abu Dhabi is ex­pected to be 12 times larger than its New York coun­ter­part, al­though a con­tract has yet to be awarded for its con­struc­tion. The Zayed Na­tional Mu­seum is on track to open within the next few years – backed by the Bri­tish Mu­seum, it doc­u­ments the his­tory and uni­fi­ca­tion of the UAE.

HIT­TING HEIGHTS

For avi­a­tion buffs, the Eti­had Air­ways In­no­va­tion Cen­tre in the city’s Al Maqta dis­trict fea­tures a walk­through re­con­struc­tion of the air­line’s A380 and B787 air­craft cab­ins, in­clud­ing mock-ups of the lux­u­ri­ous A380 res­i­dence and first apart­ments. It is also set up for events, with two meet­ing rooms, an au­di­to­rium and ten class­rooms, of­ten used by cabin safety in­struc­tors from the air­line’s train­ing academy.

Or­gan­is­ers plan­ning larger-scale gath­er­ings could con­sider Eti­had Tow­ers. This multi-use de­vel­op­ment on the Cor­niche con­tains apart­ments, of­fices, a shop­ping mall and a con­ven­tion cen­tre with a ball­room that can host 2,200 del­e­gates. Within the com­plex, the lux­u­ri­ous Jumeirah at Eti­had Tow­ers ho­tel has 382 rooms and 199 ser­viced apart­ments as well as 13 meet­ing rooms and the Mez­zoon ball­room, which can host 1,400 guests.

A two-hour drive from Abu Dhabi, event plan­ners look­ing for a day out of the city can opt to visit Al Ain Oa­sis, which opened last year. The 1,200-hectare site con­tains more than 1,47,000 date palm trees in 100 va­ri­eties plus an Eco-Cen­tre visi­tor ex­pe­ri­ence that shows what mea­sures are be­ing taken to con­serve the en­vi­ron­ment.

Another high­light is Al Jahili Fort, the for­mer head­quar­ters of the Tru­cial Oman Scouts, who guarded the re­gion’s moun­tain passes and main­tained in­ter-tribal peace. Its north wing is now home to a cap­ti­vat­ing ex­hi­bi­tion on Bri­tish ex­plorer Wil­fred Th­e­siger, dis­play­ing pho­to­graphs from his trav­els with Be­douin tribes and Sheikh Zayed, whom he be­friended, along­side video footage and ex­cerpts from his best-sell­ing book,

Left and right: Lou­vre Abu Dhabi; and horse rid­ing in Al Ain Oa­sis

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