How is Zaya Nurai Island positioned in Abu Dhabi's hospitality sector?
Zaya Nurai Island is a unique concept in Abu Dhabi's hospitality landscape, providing a secluded island environment that is still closely linked to the mainland. It is only possible to reach Nurai by speedboat, helicopter, or seaplane, but the city is just minutes away. While our guests do enjoy the sense of privacy, we still make an effort to connect them to greater Abu Dhabi and the various attractions the city has to offer. The uniqueness of the experience lies in providing this sense of seclusion and connectivity at the same time.
What changes have you noticed in the demographics of Abu Dhabi's visitors recently?
The opening of the Louvre, followed by the Warner Brothers theme park, saw the arrival of more families among Abu Dhabi's tourists. To cater more to this demographic, in 2019 Zaya Nurai Island built its new water park, which welcomes parents as well as children. Abu Dhabi is also seeing an increase in the length of vacations. In the past, tourists would come to resorts at most for four or five nights. Today, many stay for 10 nights or more to take advantage of the variety of options both in the resort and in the city. We are increasingly looking at developing our presence in the growing market of Chinese tourists throughout 2020, utilizing Chinese public relations agencies to help us. Australian tourists and those from various francophone countries in Europe are also growth markets for us. The major players, however, are the same as they have been for a long time: Germany, the UK, and Russia. The US has significant potential, and we are currently exploring the opportunities there.
How do high-end resorts utilize technology to aid in building the guest experience?
Our travel agency partners normally help us build profiles of our guests to respond to their needs. Our top clients usually come with an agency they have used for many years, one that is familiar with their travel and personal habits. At the highest ends of the luxury travel sector, it is difficult for technology to replace agents, personal assistants, and entourages. We are exploring some applications that allow guests or their staff to securely fill out their profile and upload their passport photo and credit card information before arrival. In the past, we have tried using various complex technology solutions to track guest preferences. In the end, we found that the best way was a simple WhatsApp group for our butlers, where they can share information with one another on clients' needs and whereabouts. We also have a partnership with a professional butler training school in the UK, which comes to train our staff on site. In the end, the goal is to cater to the guest's every need without them having any knowledge of the amount of work happening behind the scenes to do it.
What are the best ways for the public sector further support Abu Dhabi's hospitality sector going forward?
Transportation links can always be improved across the entire UAE. The continued opening of new routes on Etihad Airlines is helpful. The new Al Maktoum Airport is expected to see heavy traffic and is close to Abu Dhabi, but we should continue exploring ways to really take advantage of the opportunity and bring guests more quickly and conveniently into the city. The government of Abu Dhabi, particularly the Department of Culture and Tourism, has been much more active in recent months. The department participates in many shows all over the world. It devotes great attention to helping hoteliers, for example, by bringing us to shows with them at a cost that is maybe 60 or 70% less than if we attended on our own. It keeps us informed about every single policy step and has a dynamic staff that keeps communication channels open at all times.