THE CULTURE HUB

Abu Dhabi 2016 | TOURISM | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Mohamed Al Mubarak, Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, on cultural programs, competition within the UAE, and business tourism.

 HE Mohamed Al Mubarak
BIOGRAPHY
HE Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak is Chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, which oversees the conservation and promotion of Abu Dhabi’s heritage and culture, leveraging them to develop distinctive Abu Dhabi experiences designed to enrich the lives of visitors and residents. Al Mubarak is also Chairman of Miral Asset Management, an organisation responsible for creating and managing destinations in Abu Dhabi focused on building lifelong visitor value for the Emirate. He is a graduate of Northeastern University (US), with a double major in economics and political science.

One of the main policies is to develop Saadiyat into a cultural district. What other attractions will make Abu Dhabi a cultural hub?

Developing Abu Dhabi as a cultural tourism destination is a cornerstone of our work. We want to add a cultural proposition to complement our UNESCO inscribed world heritage sites. Upcoming attractions such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, the Zayed National Museum, and Guggenheim Abu Dhabi are all under construction on Saadiyat Island. They will showcase art and culture from all around the world, and cement Abu Dhabi as the cultural hub of the Arabian Peninsula. This is alongside cultural programs such as the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair and the Abu Dhabi Classics. We anticipate the draw of these world-renowned attractions to stimulate awareness and drive tourism through attractions such as Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and the World Heritage Sites of Al Ain.

How has Abu Dhabi attracted visitors against regional competition?

We feel this is being enhanced by the zonal model. Abu Dhabi has its draws as a cosmopolitan city, including locations like Saadiyat and Yas Island, the latter as an entertainment destination. We similarly have desert landscapes in Al Gharbia and the oases and heritage heartland of Al Ain. We have a range of facilities for different types of tourism, from golf to halal and cruise tourism. TCA, and the other relevant bodies, have worked hard to ensure that we host a cadre of world-class events, giving another string to our bow when seeking to attract tourists. Our PR department is always looking to develop our audience through informative and promotional materials and selecting the right digital marketing strategies to ensure high levels of engagement. We are constantly striving to push the marketing of Abu Dhabi with our key government entities, notably Etihad Airways.

An exciting new addition is the cruise terminal at Mina Zayed, and the creation of Sir Bani Yas. What was the development process behind Sir Bani Yas?

TCA Abu Dhabi is currently working in collaboration with Dubai, Oman, Sharjah, and Bahrain under the Cruise Arabia Alliance to raise awareness and stimulate demand for Arabian Gulf Cruises, and to compete with other traditional winter sun destinations. The new permanent cruise terminal at Zayed Port is a game changer, allowing Abu Dhabi to attract primary European and international cruise lines, and winning market share in the Arabian gulf cruise sector. We are positioning Abu Dhabi to offer a viable alternative to traditional winter sun cruise destinations and ensure the sustainable growth of the tourism economy. In this sense, Sir Bani Yas Island is being developed to provide a dedicated desert island cruise stopover beach in the Western Region, which is the first in the Arabian Gulf. The island's addition will encourage double-Emirate calls, add a USP to Abu Dhabi's cruise proposition, and deliver custom to the existing Sir Bani Yas tourism infrastructure. Our aim is to attract in excess of 50 ship calls in the 2016-2017 season to the beach.

Abu Dhabi also boasts a world-renowned exhibition venue, ADNEC. How do you assess the role of business tourism?

The Abu Dhabi Convention Bureau was completed in March 2013 and offers a one-stop shop for the Abu Dhabi meetings, incentive, conference and exhibitions (MICE) industry, which allows us to compete in an active global marketplace. Our priority focus is to position Abu Dhabi as a leading business events destination and attract and host major conference and congress meetings. There is a coordinated approach bringing government, GREs, public, and private sectors together under “one Abu Dhabi" for bid developments. The Advantage Abu Dhabi program acts as a catalyst for attracting business events to Abu Dhabi and extending the direct and indirect economic benefit to the tourism sector. ADNEC is an asset and the Emirate's range of smaller venues and MICE facilities ensure diversity of product to meet all of the segment's needs.