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Abu Dhabi: A Gem in the Fast Lane

There’s a lot of investment being made in Abu Dhabi that directly and positively impacts the world of corporate events. So when the opportunity came along to attend the C&IT Middle East Forum, Teresa from our Operations Team jumped at the chance.

Day one

This was my first visit to Abu Dhabi, so I went with an open mind as I didn’t quite know what to expect, and I was keen to see how the largest of the Emirates approached the world of incentive travel, conferences and product launches, especially compared to competing destinations.
The seven and a half hour flight with Etihad was excellent, and what I expected from a modern, service focused airline. We landed in the evening and the airport experience was swift and easy, and the internal architecture perhaps hinted at Abu Dhabi’s ambition to be region’s go-to premium destination.

Three nights of WOW

The Forum was a five night stay, with my first three nights at the Yas Viceroy hotel in Yas Island, right on the F1 circuit. You can see the huge influence the F1 exposure and experience has had and, in line with the 2030 economic vision, it seems to have benefited from a planned and coordinated development.  The architecture is stunning and the details all knit together to make for an impressive experience. For example the ability of the hotel’s outer shell to change colour, rendering the sublime curves even more of a ‘wow’ moment.
I have high standards and expectations when travelling, especially when I become responsible for delivering a high class experience for a group, but the Yas Viceroy swept me off my feet - I LOVED it. Enormous rooms, glamourous decor, high standards of service throughout, and the Skylite roof bar all combine to create a wonderful, unique and spectacular atmosphere, something often missing in many five star properties.  
With Ferrari World, Waterworld, the F1 circuit right outside and a host of amenities within the hotel and marina, you could hold an incentive or conference event on Yas Island alone and not venture into more of Abu Dhabi. However, when our programme of supplier meetings and seminars drew to a close we ventured out to experience more of the Emirate.

Two nights in the heart of Abu Dhabi

I then spent my last two nights at Dusit Thani which is in the heart of Abu Dhabi. The hotel was a delight, and again a lot of attention to is paid to service and small details. However, I think having experienced the first three nights at Yas Viceroy, this felt more of a mainstream five star experience and the inevitable comparisons were maybe a little unfair.

Activities galore

Our visit was quite intense, with a lot of seminars and meetings with local properties, venues and attractions. Moving around Abu Dhabi is very easy, and this helps when agendas are very full, whether that is for a large regional conference or a top achievers incentive travel trip. Having a wide variety of water or sand based and cultural experiences close and accessible allows provides great variety for any event.

With the car and ‘glamour’ connection it could be debatable whether this is a male-oriented destination; however it’s a destination rich in culture and one that is funky, modern and cosmopolitan, providing a lot of activities that are very female oriented.

It is a place of paradoxes and contrasts in a way. It is spacious yet compact, traditional (the Grand Mosque is a definitely a must-see) yet cutting edge modern, relaxing with a high intensity too. The F1 relationship really rubs off, not only reinforcing the glitz and glamour, but because the smallest of details are considered in the pursuit of excellence, everywhere and for everything it seemed to me.

Overall perceptions

I went to Abu Dhabi with an open mind, and although I wasn’t sure on what to expect, I thought the destination was fantastic. In the pursuit of the luxury visitor, business and personal, Abu Dhabi is spot on in terms of facilities, infrastructure and the more human elements such as service standards and architecture. Scratch the surface and it reveals itself as a first rate destination for a high-end incentive travel group, regional conference and product launches.

Leave your preconceptions at home and it is a destination that will thrill.

Abu Dhabi Itinerary Overview

  • Etihad Flights - flight from Heathrow. Excellent and what you would expect from a modern, efficient and service oriented air carrier.
  • Yas Viceroy – enough said above!
  • Ferrari World and Yas Waterworld – the largest indoor theme park with the most water slides and the fastest rollercoaster on the planet! Ferrari World is a unique dinner venue accommodating up to 500.
  • Yas Marina Circuit – F1 pit garages for unique dinners or lunches, a petrolhead heaven, driving experiences, there is a little known drag strip here to. A lot of high octane activies, great for incentive groups.
  • Dusit Thani – Whilst not at the same premium position as the Yas Viceroy it has the space and refinement to appeal to groups, especially those wanting a more central location.
  • Hotel Anantara – get off the busy road and you enter a whole new world. Through reception is the terrace and outdoor pool overlooking the Eastern Mangrove Lagoon National Park. It is exquisite and tranquil. Great décor, views and exploring the mangroves in kayaks is a neat twist.
  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – cover up ladies, and appreciate the aircon! A stunning statement to the central and cultural role Islam plays in society and history. The central chandelier is something else entirely (it has a ladder inside it to get at the glass for cleaning).
  • Park Hyatt - a resort property set on a large stretch of environmentally protected beach. Great rooms with superb views.
  • Monte Carlo Beach Club - stunning location. White sand, turquoise sea and a superb pool setting.
  • Sir Bani Yas Island – a private jet transfer to the island that used to be owned by the Sheikh for a take on a safari reinforces the exclusivity of the destination.
  • Emirates Marina and Corniche Boat Trip – great to see Abu Dhabi from the water and appreciate the fabulous skyline.
  • Arabian Nights – a camp in the desert, this evening activity of dune bashing, sand sledging, quads, camels, dining and swimming is a lot of fun and a great contrast to the refinement of the city.

If you want a quick tour of where Teresa went and what she saw, head over to our Pinterest board.

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