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Multi-billion investments are making Abu Dhabi a prime MICE destination

Nabeel Mahmoud al Zarouni

Nabeel Mahmoud Al Zarouni, UK Country Manager based in London, talks to ITCM’s Sydney Paulden

Nabeel Mahmoud Al Zarouni has a great story to tell – and he is just the man to tell it. The story is about the success of Abu Dhabi, the UAE’s capital and biggest emirate, in establishing itself as a business and cultural destination. And Nabeel himself is the first Abu Dhabi national to head up one of the state’s overseas tourism offices .

Nabeel not so much arrived in the UK to take up his position in September 2011, but more returned to the UK. He was educated at The University of Westminster, so it didn’t take him long to acclimatise to London. The Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority offices are based at 1 Knightsbridge. Having a great address in West London, across the road from Hyde Park and close to some of London’s finest restaurants with Arab cuisine, definitely helps in the settling-in process.

As the UK Country Manager responsible for promoting Abu Dhabi as a destination for MICE events and consumer travel, his task should not be too difficult. Millions of dollars are being spent by Abu Dhabi in creating some of the world’s most remarkable visitor attractions. Saadiyat Island, for example, will soon be the setting for several of the world’s most impressive museums, including a Guggenheim and a Louvre. It already sports an extensive visitor centre and museum and some of the world’s top hotels, including a new St Regis Hotel & Spa and a new Monte-Carlo Beach Club.

Nabeel was keen to enumerate some of his emirate’s recent achievements in the MICE sector. ‘In the first quarter of 2012 alone’, he says, ‘we welcomed around 125,000 delegates to events. These included the 26,000 who attended the World Future Energy Summit and the 10,000 who participated in the World Ophthalmology Congress.

‘And major events are already booked into the future. For example, the contract has just been signed for the 16th World Conference on Tobacco or Health to be held in Abu Dhabi in 2015, attracting 3,000 delegates.’

Nabeel explains that the emphasis on the growth of tourism is an important part of Abu Dhabi’s plan to diversify.

‘Investment in tourism’, says Nabeel, ‘especially for business tourism and events, creates more opportunities for a much wider range of people.’

‘To achieve these objectives, Abu Dhabi,’ says Nabeel, ‘is ensuring that we can offer great venues, a wide choice of hotels, good roads and infrastructure and excellent communications with the rest of the world. All these ingredients are being put in place. And in addition we can offer a destination as safe as any in the world plus high levels of hygiene and food to everyone’s taste’.

Supporting what Nabeel says are the statistics relating to Abu Dhabi’s international airport. It is served by 53 airlines linking it with 85 destinations in 49 countries. Another multi-billion-dollar investment will see the completion of the Midfield Terminal Complex to provide everything required by up to 40m passengers a year. Its central space will be equal to three football pitches.

‘Our London tourism office’, says Nabeel, ‘is just one of many. We have five in Europe, the most recent opened in New York, and others in Moscow, Australia and China. We each have our own targets for the growth of tourism traffic from our territories and all our efforts are combining to make Abu Dhabi a more and more favoured destination for tourism and events.’

Superb, colourful images of Abu Dhabi’s tourism facilities can be found at

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