Business Tourists to Abu Dhabi on Rise in spite of Recession

ABU DHABI — Abu Dhabi expects to welcome around 1.8 million “business tourists” this year, up 30 per cent from last year in spite of the recession. Officials in Abu Dhabi expect that visits from business people — business tourism — can contribute to the emirate’s efforts to diversify away from its oil-centered economy.

By T. Ramavarman

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Published: Wed 12 Aug 2009, 10:52 PM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 9:32 PM

The government-owned Abu Dhabi National Exhibitions Company, or ADNEC, is a linchpin of the campaign to boost business tourism here. ADNEC Chief Executive Officer Simon Horgan forecasts that spending by business tourists represents a potential economic benefit for the emirate worth Dh 1.9 billion per year.

ADNEC operates one of the world’s most modern exhibition centres — Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre — as well as a major exhibition hall in London. ADNEC plans also to open the Al Ain Convention Centre, a residential and business centre in that city.

Horgan, who worked for eight years as Director of the Dubai World Trade Centre, became ADNEC’s Chief Executive in 2005. He shared with Khaleej Times his views on the convention business, its growing importance in the UAE and his plans to help it overcome the effects of the recession. Here are excerpts.

What is the role of business tourism in Abu Dhabi’s development strategy? How has ADNEC helped in this particular sector’s growth?

A)The Abu Dhabi Government has clearly defined ambitions to expand non-carbon industries such as tourism, and ADNEC continues to play a strategically important role in the delivery of these ambitions. Whether it is through the events which we stage at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre or the development projects which we are responsible for, ADNEC is a huge economic engine for Abu Dhabi.

Can you name other significant factors contributing to the development of business tourism in the emirate?

A) ADNEC strongly supports the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority’s “Advantage Abu Dhabi” initiative which supports business events aligned to the Abu Dhabi 2030 Economic Vision through financial grants, government endorsements, leadership patronage, cost rebates and marketing support. Advantage Abu Dhabi is tangible evidence of the government’s commitment to building on the recent growth of business events and establishing Abu Dhabi as the region’s leading destination for exhibitions and conferences.

Can you explain exactly what ADNEC is?

A) Most people know of ADNEC because of the many high-profile exhibitions and events staged at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre every year. But, the company is about much more than this. ADNEC is a strategic international venue development and management company; our venue portfolio includes the Gulf’s largest exhibition centre - the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, and the UK capital’s largest exhibition and conference venue, ExCeL London.

We create unique business districts to serve Abu Dhabi’s rapid expansion and emergence on the global stage. Our development projects surrounding the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre include Capital Centre — a mixed-use development of 23 hotel, residential, commercial and mixed-use towers; Capital Gate — an iconic 35 storey gravity defying feature tower, featuring the 5-star hotel - ‘Hyatt at Capital Centre’; and the Aloft Hotel — which links directly to the exhibition centre; as well as the 2.4km Marina Zone which is currently being master-planned.

In addition, ADNEC is expanding within the region, with The Al Ain Convention Centre, a residential and business micro city around a state-of-the-art convention centre and hotel.

Has the recession affected business tourism in Abu Dhabi? What have been the setbacks, if any? Do you expect further growth in this sector, and will it be in line with your projected targets?

A) We have staged many of our most successful… events since the beginning of the global economic crisis: ADIPEC 2008, World Future Energy Summit 2009, IDEX 2009, Abu Dhabi Yacht Show 2009, Cityscape 2009 and Gastech 2009.

We have 75 major events scheduled for 2009, compared to 14 in 2006 before the new facilities were built.

We expect to welcome around 1.8 million visitors in 2009, compared to 1.5 million in 2008, and our investment into the ADNEC site is intensifying. …

Whilst every international market has been affected in some way by the economic situation, a few regions are drawing the attention of rest of the world because of the massive opportunities that they still provide.

Abu Dhabi is without question one such region. The global recession is actually an opportunity for ADNEC; I’m not sorry to say that we are taking full advantage.


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