Arabian Spotlight: Abu Dhabi and Dubai


Zayed-National-MuseumZayed National Museum, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are banking on international tourism

Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (TCA Abu Dhabi) has 11 international offices, including one in New York City. This month, the destination management organization will be hitting the road to share its stories with consumers in Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Similar roadtrips are planned for India, Africa and the East Coast of the United States later this year.

At IMEX America in October, Dubai Association Centre was represented in a prominent press conference alongside Singapore Exhibition and Convention Bureau, Destination DC and Visit Brussels. Spokespeople from all four organizations were on hand to announce the new Global Association Hubs Partnership, designed to connect these leading convention destinations and showcase their collective resources.

With exquisite infrastructure, an enticing business travel vibe and exotic experiences sure to increase event attendance, Abu Dhabi and Dubai, the two largest cities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), are rolling out the welcome mat to the world, including the United States. According to Melanie Germano, U.S.-based representative for TCA Abu Dhabi, the United States is the emirate’s fifth-largest market.

“Everyone knows Dubai,” Germano says. “Anything that’s good for Dubai is good for us. It lifts the whole region up.”

Abu Dhabi

Louvre-Abu-DhabiLouvre Abu Dhabi

When the Abu Dhabi roadshow invades China and Hong Kong next month, there will be lots to talk about regarding stunning projects sure to knock the sandals off of delegates. It seems the UAE capital has an island for everything, including the capital city itself, adventure, and culture and the arts.

The emirate features more than 200 islands, which has led to an incredibly rich Arabian Gulf trading history that dates to 2000 B.C. Long before oil became a key economic driver in the 1960s, Abu Dhabi was known for its pearls.

The newest buzz-generating development is Saadiyat Island Cultural District, which is located about 20 minutes from city center. Aimed at nurturing a cultural environment that will enrich residents and visitors, the island’s arts district will feature Louvre Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.

Louvre Abu Dhabi, which is expected to open later this year, is one of the most highly anticipated cultural centers in the world. It’s garnering quite of bit of interest due to its affiliation with its famous sister property in Paris; French museums will loan Abu Dhabi up to 300 pieces by such artists as Leonardo da Vinci, Claude Monet and Henri Matisse. For its part, Louvre Abu Dhabi has a collection of historic treasures reflecting influences and connections between different cultures throughout history. A small sculpture of a standing Bactrian princess dates to the late third and early second millennium B.C.

The museum is adorned by a white dome, which measures 590 feet in diameter. The structure is emblematic of Arabian architecture such as a mosque, mausoleum and madrasa. “I wanted this building to mirror a protected territory that belongs to the Arab world and this geography,” said Jean Nouvel, Pritzker Prize-winning architect, in a press release.

Zayed National Museum is dedicated to the former UAE president and will serve as a tribute to the country’s modernity. Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which will focus on contemporary art and culture, is the result of a similar arrangement as the one Abu Dhabi has with France. TCA Abu Dhabi has not announced opening dates for either museum.

The 294-room Jumeirah Saadiyat Island Resort, scheduled to open next year, is one of six hotels being built on the island. Other Saadiyat Island developments include a performing arts center and a championship golf course.

Yas Marina Circuit Formula-1Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi

Yas Island, about 30 minutes from city center, is the adventure island. This man-made jewel is home to Yas Marina Circuit, a Formula One race track, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi theme park, Yas Waterworld and internationally acclaimed Yas Links Golf Course.

Iconic Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi is a five-star property that is distinguished as the only hotel in the world to straddle an F1 race track. The stunning 499-room hotel, adjacent to a marina for visiting yachts, offers 37,888 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space.


meetings in dubai

The fact that Dubai Association Centre (DAC) has aligned with several major international meeting destinations to form the Global Association Hubs Partnership is a testament to its drive to be a major player in the meetings and events industry. DAC offers assistance to encourage international nonprofits and associations to open offices in Dubai.

Dubai World Trade Centre, a complex that includes Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre, experienced an impressive 12 percent increase in attendees in 2015, with a record 2.74 million delegates; exhibitors increased 17 percent. The convention center offers more than 1 million sq. ft. of event space. Trade Center Arena seats 10,000.

In February, Alliance Business Centres Network for the Middle East and North Africa announced that Dubai ranks first among international cities for corporate expansion. Based on a survey of 300 corporations, Dubai finished ahead of Singapore, Hong Kong and New York City.

“Dubai is home to significant industry clusters within health care, IT, trade and financial services that can provide support, knowledge and expertise to international business events,” says Steen Jakobsen, director of Dubai Business Events. “As Dubai works to establish itself as a global hub for innovation and expertise, we focus on attracting conferences and exhibitions in these fields so they can support the development of our knowledge economy.”

In October, Dubai Parks and Resorts will unveil the first phase of a theme park project, which will include the Hollywood-themed Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood and Legoland. The Dubai Opera is also expected to open this year, featuring a 2,000-seat downtown venue for opera, theater, concerts and art exhibitions.

“The business industry is a key growth driver for regional development and plays a fundamental role in the overall socio-economic growth of the UAE,” Jakobsen says. “The steadily growing numbers of business events that are brought into the city drive knowledge creation, providing platforms for the exchange of ideas, information and research, which ultimately boosts the emirate into a global knowledge hub.”

Abu Dhabi and Dubai have helped establish UAE as a key business and meeting destination, extending its influence well beyond the Middle East.

Luxury in UAE

When meeting in Abu Dhabi or Dubai, there will be no shortage of lavish hotels to use as your base camp for adventure and cultural exploration. From international brands to Middle East-based hospitality corporations, here are a few top meeting and event properties to consider for future events.

Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace has set the standard for luxury. Regarded as one of the most opulent hotels in the world, it is the cornerstone of the popular beachfront Corniche area. Literally resembling a palace, this property offers 394 guest rooms and 74,900 sq. ft. of space for meetings and events.


Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi is a five-star property on Al Maryah Island that is scheduled to open this spring. With a prime waterfront location in the emirate’s business and entertainment hub, it will offer 200 guest rooms and two ballrooms. Outdoor seating and gardens with expansive water views will be a key draw for special events.

The 200-room Edition Abu Dhabi is part of the Abu Dhabi Marina mixed-use development, offering upscale residences, executive apartments, health clubs and restaurants. It’s expected to open in the fall.

Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl is a 47-story tower on the western shores of the city’s main island. When it opens later this year, the hotel will offer 428 guest rooms. Meeting space will include a 10,379-square-foot ballroom.


DubaiKempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates Dubai is connected to the famous Mall of the Emirates, which features 560 retail stores and the region’s largest indoor snow park. The luxury hotel has 393 guest rooms and reception for up to 120 indoors and 300 outdoors.

Four Seasons Hotel Dubai International Financial Centre opened in March in the city’s business district. The 106-room boutique property features a glass-walled, above-ground rooftop pool and Firebird Diner by chef Michael Mina.

Madinat Jumeirah, a resort that serves as a re-creation of ancient Arabia, is adding a third hotel this year when Jumeirah Al Naseem opens. The resort has 40 restaurants and bars, and conference space. It’s adjacent to 202-room Burj Al Arab (pictured), a famous sail-shaped hotel.

First-Class Flights


Abu Dhabi and Dubai have major international airlines based in their cities, and both have upped their frequencies to and from U.S. airports. The impact exceeds Americans getting to the Arabian Gulf; these UAE hubs are gateways to the entire Middle East and South Asia.

Etihad Airways, based in Abu Dhabi, made headlines late last year when it announced that the Airbus A380s being used for service between New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and UAE would feature an ultra-luxe, private three-room suite called The Residence. At a cost of $32,000, the suite features a private butler and a bed.

Besides New York City, other U.S. destinations where Etihad offers passenger service include San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport (DFW), Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport (ORD) and Dulles International Airport (IAD) outside Washington, DC.

For the seventh-straight year, Etihad was named the world’s leading airline at the World Travel Awards in December.

“This is a great reward for the monumental efforts all of us at Etihad Airways have put into making our young and progressive company a global leader in innovation, hospitality and style,” says Peter Baumgartner, CEO for Etihad. “We remain committed to transforming air travel by continuously investing in the best people, products and technology and, in doing so, developing a highly acclaimed airline brand into the undisputed provider of superior flying experiences in all cabins of service.”

One of the best perks when flying from Abu Dhabi to the United States is that immigration and customs processing takes place at Abu Dhabi International Airport. This means that flights are treated as domestic arrivals.

Emirates, which is based in Dubai, serves 10 U.S. gateways: Orlando International Airport (MCO), Boston Logan International Airport (BOS), Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Houston George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), Chicago (ORD), San Francisco (SFO), Los Angeles (LAX), Dallas (DFW), Washington (IAD) and New York (JFK).

Starting this summer, Emirates will offer service twice a day from Los Angeles International Airport, where the airline boasts a $6.2 million lounge that provides luxury and seamless service to premium passengers.