Abu Dhabi is fast becoming a meetings and events destination of interest for our clients. Last month we had the opportunity to invite a group of clients from the legal, finance and retail sectors to experience what it has to offer.
Some of our meeting planners were exploring the United Arab Emirates as a meetings and events destination for the first time, while others had previously held events in Dubai and were now looking for other areas in the region to wow and excite their clients.
As Reed & Mackay Asia Pacific Strategic Operations Director Gary Chakraborty points out, Abu Dhabi as a meetings and events destination is already well established: “Throughout 2022 Abu Dhabi proved to be the power capital of the UAE,” he says. “It hosted many annual events including energy summits, media and medical conferences, as well as world policy programmes.”
The Middle East is a region in which Reed & Mackay is experiencing significant growth, with a 22% increase in business travel volume to the area compared to 2019. Testament to this is the recent opening of a new office in Abu Dhabi to service the region.
Organising familiarisation trips (FAM) for clients is instrumental in highlighting a destination’s key historical, cultural, infrastructural and sustainable offer.
A night flight on Etihad Airways allowed the guests to arrive in the morning of the itinerary’s first day.
Traveller wellbeing is always front of mind for Reed & Mackay. So on checking into the luxury Rosewood Hotel Abu Dhabi – which hosted the group for the first two nights of the trip – time was factored into the itinerary for our group of travellers to hit the gym, freshen up and enjoy some breakfast, before setting out to discover all the destination has to offer.
A FAM’s objective is always to demonstrate a destination’s suitability for events, combining tours of hotels and wow factor venues with, increasingly, a chance to platform its sustainability options. The group rapidly discovered that the venues in Abu Dhabi are event-ready.
The first venue on the itinerary was the Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island Resort, where the group explored the resort’s meeting and events facilities at its ocean-front location.
Also conveniently located on Saadiyat Island, the Louvre Abu Dhabi was the next stop, where the group immersed themselves in the incredible art. The art museum features more than 120 masterpieces in its permanent collection, as well as revolving exhibitions and hand-picked loans from the Louvre in Paris.
Abu Dhabi is a haven of cultural attractions; the next must-visit location was Qasr Al Watan, a truly spectacular palace bedecked with ornate lighting, beautifully tiled floors and wall and ceiling decorations in intricate gold designs.
Plus the destination is not short of impressive venues to host dinners. The first night’s dinner was hosted by Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, a five-star property located on a private beach and boasting eight restaurants.
A must-see for anyone visiting the region is a trip to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which takes the visitor on a journey of Islamic art and architecture. It’s impossible not to be moved by the sheer grandeur of the building and visiting the Mosque was a highlight for many of our guests.
Day two continued with some high-speed adrenaline, with guests treated to driving a lap of the Yas Marina Circuit, home of the Formula 1™ Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, multi-purpose event spaces and customised racing experiences.
This venue was a highlight for Reed & Mackay Global Director of Events Mandy Warwick. “I love motor racing; being able to experience the drive around Yas Circuit was extremely special. It’s great to be able to showcase this to our clients and for them to really experience the destination. Being here on the ground with them – where you’re witnessing how they get a real taste and feel for the destination – is rewarding”.
As well as showcasing Abu Dhabi’s cultural sights and entertainment options, Reed & Mackay highlighted some of the sustainability initiatives the destination has. On a tour of Jubail Mangrove Park, the group heard more about the park’s conservation efforts and then kayaked through this mangrove sanctuary to unwind at a secluded lagoon.
Day three continued with a visit to Saadiyat Rotana Resort & Villas – which hosted the guests overnight – where the guests were invited to lunch and an afternoon at leisure, before a sunset rooftop reception to conclude the trip.
With the FAM trip an overall success, one of the guests commented: “It’s amazing to see Abu Dhabi and great to consider it for our events going forward. Thank you to Reed & Mackay for hosting; experiencing the destination first hand has really changed my preconceptions of the region. It has been a fantastic trip.”