Abu Dhabi Convention and Exhibition Bureau (ADCB) attended IBTM World and announced a partnership with the Society of Incentive Travel Excellence (SITE), aiming to expand opportunities within the MICE industry. HQ interviewed Mubarak Al Shamisi, Director at ADCB, on his expectations for the destination and what is planned to meet them.
Among the strongest competitors in the region, how is Abu Dhabi positioned in the meeting industry?
Abu Dhabi is becoming an increasingly popular destination for MICE. This is attributable to the comprehensive array of unique offerings available in the city. When choosing a destination for MICE activities, associations consider many factors such as: safety, infrastructure, ease of transport, technology, available services and hospitality. The capital of the UAE has tremendously developed over the past decade, providing excellent tourism facilities, world-class hospitality venues, convenient transport options, and a stable, safe social environment. As a sign of its growing reputation as a leading destination for business tourism, the International Congress and Convention Association ranked Abu Dhabi as 74th in terms of attracting international association meetings. It was also titled as the ‘Leading Overseas Luxury MICE Destination’, during the China Travel and Meeting Industry Awards in 2017.
We noticed a considered increase of medical congresses in Abu Dhabi by the end of the year. What is the competitive advantage that Abu Dhabi brings to this sector by hosting medical conferences?
The healthcare industry in Abu Dhabi is rapidly growing and contributing to the increasing volume of medical tourism in the UAE, which saw a 5.5percent growth year-over-year and reached Dhs12.1billion in sales in 2018. The capital of the UAE is home to some of the globally leading brands within the medical sector, including Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi and Mediclinic International, making it a prime hub for knowledge exchange and networking with medical professionals from various parts of the world.
The medical industry is considered a substantial element of the capital’s 2030 strategy, which is aimed at diversifying the economy. Abu Dhabi already has all the necessary infrastructure to become a key player in the medical tourism sector and is on its way to becoming a highly competitive destination for medical and healthcare facilities. Earlier this year, Abu Dhabi hosted the 12th edition of the World Medical Tourism & Global Healthcare Congress (WMTC) - making its first appearance outside of North America. Other major events within the medical and healthcare sector continue to be part of our planned events, like the World Congress of Nephrology, World Heart Valve Conference, International Council of Nurses Congress and Wonca World Congress of Family Medicine.
Mubarak Al Shamsi
Abu Dhabi is the capital and the largest of all Emirates, so it is a logical strategic option for events in the country. How do you intend to adjust this reality with the investment in new infrastructure, facilities and equipment?
Through a close and regular interaction with our partners and key stakeholders, global trends related to business travel, conventions and exhibitions are closely monitored. This helps us develop the tools and mechanisms that would help us achieve our overall objective of becoming a leading destination for events and MICE activities.
Recently, technology and ease of access have become a priority for travelers across the globe. In response, we have implemented a series of updates to our Abu Dhabi Calendar app in order to enable visitors to book and navigate the city’s top events easily using their smartphones. Additionally, Abu Dhabi offers high-end meeting facilities, venues and services. We also created a state-of-the-art exhibition centre, the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC), which hosts more than 327 events per year and welcomes over 1.6 million visitors to the venue.
In the heart of the Middle East and right in the center of Eurasia, the United Arab Emirates has an advantageous feature regarding accessibility and meeting points. Is this relevant for Abu Dhabi to increase direct connections, convention centres and new hotel space for the region?
Abu Dhabi is a highly accessible destination, with two thirds of the world’s population within an eight-hour radius and the other third within four-hours radius. Another competitive advantage is that we are on a similar time zone to some of the world’s biggest cities, minimizing jet lag for visitors. Indeed, we have witnessed a surge over the years in the number of visitors.
The government has already announced plans to further expand the extensive array of facilities and hospitality venues in order to accommodate the ever-growing volume of tourists visiting. Etihad Airways, our national carrier, serves more than 100 destinations across the world and, with a massive new terminal underway, the city is expected to serve the increasing number of passengers flying through and to Abu Dhabi.
What are the priority markets that the Emirate expects to reach in the upcoming years?
Abu Dhabi is experiencing an overhaul of its economic structures through numerous diversification initiatives. These are part of our Economic Vision 2030 and seek to achieve 4percent non-oil GDP contributions by 2030. For tourism, we aspire to deliver a holistic tourism strategy that will enable Abu Dhabi to reach its target.
We aim to reach a variety of markets, mainly the ones considered top sources for tourism to Abu Dhabi. Currently, China is considered the top source market for tourism in Abu Dhabi, followed by India and the UK. The capital aims to attract over 600,000 Chinese visitors by 2021. Another prime focus of ours is the UK, the leading European source market for tourism and third largest overseas market for Abu Dhabi.
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