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Client FAM: What Abu Dhabi can do for your events.



Nearly 12 months in the making and planning, but February saw us host our first client FAM trip out in Abu Dhabi. We took 8 clients out to explore what the destination has to offer for all things events and what an amazing few days we had there!


Overview:


  • 4 Days

  • 6 Hotels visited

  • 6 different types of independent (non hotel) event spaces

  • 3x group/team activities

  • 3x cultural in destination experiences

  • 1x large conference venue visited


Abu Dhabi:


From the UK it's around the 6/7 hour mark in terms of travel time. Etihad is the main flight service provider for the destination, but we were advised that BA will soon be opening up flights in the next few months.


The obvious comparison asked is the difference between here and Dubai? Well, for one thing it's a little more easy paced from Dubai. We found it comfortable traveling around all areas without any real traffic issues or time delays. So from an event logistical point, this is a huge plus. As with Dubai, it can be a little more congested and time consuming traveling around.


Travelling late winter as we did (end of February) we found the weather to be ideal. Most days in and around 24c-27c which was very manageable (and very welcome!) We will touch upon cultural adaptations later and most perceptions are you need to be covered at all time, with no alcohol at any point. Well let us settle the myth, totally untrue. Yes, in certain situations and attending certain cultural venues you have to be aware. For example, men need to wear clothing that cover their knees when visiting places such as the Palace or Mosque. Ladies need to be a little more covered in terms of headwear. But it certainly doesn't feel troublesome or restrictive in any way. As for alcohol, yes you can drink here but in a more controlled environment. Which to be fair if you were running an event here, that would be the case anyway?




 


Hotels:


Hilton Yas Island - Our home for the entire stay and a great location as a base for your stay in Abu Dhabi. You are close to Ferrari World, Yas Circuit and the Waterworld. It boast multiple event spaces both indoor and outside for groups of up to 1200 people. Our favourite non conventional spaces being Cafe Del Mar giving 360 views of the marina and sunset vibes. But also McCafferty's Irish Pub, it's very own in house Irish Pub that can be used to bring something different to you event here.


It also partners with the nearby recently opened WB Hotel. It's a little quirky having Bugs and Daffy great you in the lobby. But their Directors Club restaurant is a really great option for a private dinner or a senior leadership group meeting and dinner.


W Abu Dhabi - Before our site visit we have the pleasure of experiencing their "Brunch" option. With endless choices of amazing foods (100% recommend their tacos), free flowing drinks and great tunes playing in the background. All overlooking Yas Circuit, it's a must to add to any itinerary. It also hosts great event space options for all types, with the highlight being the rooftop space - it's huge! Not only that it can be branded and lit up with your own corporate colours. A great partner hotel for conferences at Yas Circuit, which it connects to via a bridge between the venues.


Mandarin Oriental (Emirates Palace) - Being a former palace as you would imagine, this hotel is first class in everything from looks to service. With it's own private beach, fantastic ballroom and amazing spa facilities. It's everything you would want and expect from this brand.


St Regis (Saadiyat Island) - lavish Arabic decor and rooms with amazing sea or city views. It's a great venue for events up to around 500 people. The ballroom is simply stunning and they have a number of boardrooms with break out spaces to suit smaller events and meeting needs. Out of the 6 restaurants (and one stunning whiskey bar) we had a private dinner at Buddha Bar. Some of the best Asian food you will experience in destination!


Al Wathba Desert Resort - Yes, this really is in the middle of the desert! This venue is simply stunning. Quiet, tranquil and with amazing spa facilities. This would be an ideal incentive venue for small groups looking for luxury and relaxation - the perfect reward incentive.




 

Cultural (DEI) Experiences:


Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - We have the privilege of a private access tour of this simply beautiful venue. The mosque was built under the guidance and supervision of Sheikh Zayed, who was buried here after his death in 2004.


Large enough to accommodate over 40,100 worshippers, while the main prayer hall can hold over 7,000. There are two smaller prayer halls, with a capacity of 1,500 each, one of which is the women's prayer hall. The carpet in the hall is considered by many to be the world's largest carpet made by Iran's Carpet Company and designed by Iranian artist Ali Khaliqi. We can tell you first hand, the feel of the carpet on your feet is amazing. Added to the several large and stunning chandeliers, it's an absolute must visit on your event plan.



The Abrahamic Family House - An interfaith complex on Saadiyat Island that hosted the Document on Human Fraternity signed by Pope Francis on behalf of the Catholic Church and Ahmed El-Tayeb on behalf of the al-Azhar Mosque in 2019. Housing the St. Francis Church, Imam Al-Tayeb Mosque and Moses Ben Maimon Synagogue in separate structures, all on the same site.


It's quite simply an education coming here and a great nod to the fact that Abu Dhabi and the Emirates itself is making huge progress regards inclusion and diversity as a destination. Another must inclusion for your event plan!



The Louvre (Abu Dhabi) - an open and inclusive museum. It celebrates stories of cultural connections to build understanding across cultures that reveals we have more in common than we know!

Some fascinating artifacts and art pieces on display. Including the worlds very first written piece of text.


Maybe not for everyone, but for art and culture delegates, it's another great addition that works well as a breakout activity group option.




Qasr Al Watan, Presidential Palace - Another simply stunning venue. It serves as a working presidential palace and stands as one of the UAE’s most prominent cultural and governmental institutions. A unique testament to the spirit of the region's people and its leaders.


As a cultural visit and again part of your breakout group activities. It is defiantly for those fascinated by history, architecture, or simply want to immerse yourself in the UAE’s journey. The Palace can also be used for private events, although there will be a number of hoops to jump to qualify this!



 

Other Event Venues:



Yas Circuit - Probably most known for one of the most sort after F1 races in the calendar. Yes, it certainly is an experience in itself that weekend of the year to attend. But outside of this, what can it offer...?


Our group had a great karting experience on the small track outside of the circuit itself. The track is quick and reasonably driver friendly, which lends itself well for groups of all abilities to enjoy as a team activity.


However, the real creative interest comes from being able to use the circuit for conferences. It boasts first class conference facilities and creative options on track or in the pit lanes for lunches, dinners and further team build experiences. As mentioned earlier a great option is to partner the conference with the W Hotel that is connected to the the circuit. A definite wow factor for those looking for more from their conference venue and destination.


**Conferences can also be held at other track circuits and provide a great option and alternative venue for your next event - get in touch with the team for more on this.





Saadiyat Beach Club - With a glittering outdoor pool, this exclusive club is also home to a workout room, spa, sauna and steam rooms, and private cabanas and loungers set on the pristine, white beach. It works really well for private lunches, dinners and receptions events. Or maybe just allow your group a day pass to relax for some downtime?


If you’re lucky, you might spot dolphins playing in the bay. Turtles may also make an appearance, with the club being part of a protected habitat where critically endangered Hawksbill turtles have nested for years.




Desert Oasis - For those really looking for privacy, then let us create your own little oasis in the desert. For groups of 10 up to 200 we can create an amazing venue out in the dunes where you can enjoy the sunset, have a bird of prey display, camel riding along with your own desert evening party with fully stock bar, fantastic food and live entertainment.



 

Other Activities:


Yellowboats - We picked up our yellow boat from the Mandarin Oriental marina and sped off across the waters to return back to Yas Marina. It's an amazing way to see Abu Dhabi, great instagram moments as well as a little bit of an adrenaline rush!




Dune Bashing - When heading out to the desert, why not jump in a 4x4, lower the tyre pressure and then go flat out, up, down and sideways across the Dunes. This is such fun and a great tie in with your Desert Oasis option.




 

Summary:


What makes Abu Dhabi a great choice for your events? From what we experienced it has everything you could possibly need in terms of hosting meetings, conferences and incentives here. A fantastic point to consider too is that with pretty much all the event spaces at the hotels here - AV comes fully included in your delegate rate package or room hire costs. Logistically it's easy in terms of transfers around the destination and you can build your event plan around a different event environment and experience each day, which will only inspire and engage your attendees across the event.


In terms of culture and DEI (diversity, equity and inclusion) there are perceptions and for some there will be understandable objections. But as we experienced first hand, Abu Dhabi is making huge strides in this area and we have seen first hand how many perceptions are easily changed. It really is a first class destination for events and our clients all thoroughly enjoyed their time here leaning and experiencing what it has to offer.


Special thanks to Abu Dhabi CVB, Pure Arabia DMC and DMC Advantage for helping us bring such a special FAM together for our clients.



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