Abu Dhabi diversifies product portfolio

The Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) has much to celebrate with hotels seeing occupancy surge to 63 per cent this August.

The emirate’s diversification agenda continues to work in its favour as it leaves no stone unturned to prep its products for the winter season and the year ahead. The recently announced Return to UFC Fight Island, the intangible heritage campaign, ‘Universe of Crafts’ and the announcement of one of the largest wildlife rehabilitation facilities in the region go on to show how the emirate is broadening and establishing its scope in sports and adventure travel, cultural tourism and sustainable travel practices all at the same time.

Last month, DCT Abu Dhabi and UFC, the world’s premier mixed martial arts organisation, announced that the Return to UFC Fight Island, the much-celebrated UFC series held on Yas Island from September 26 to October 24.

Following the undisputed success of July’s inaugural series, which saw the state-of-the-art UFC Fight Island Safe Zone implemented across all event-related areas of Yas Island, the series’ epic return less than three months later marks another historic first for Abu Dhabi and the sport. The capital of the UAE is continuing to take a leading position in safely organising large, high-profile sports events through successful management of health and safety protocols, providing a further boost to the local economy and showcasing the world’s leading athletes. 

Return to UFC Fight Island will feature UFC 253, UFC 254 and three Fight Nights in the UAE capital’s premier leisure and entertainment destination. The five-event mega schedule will be held behind closed doors and marks the first time that two consecutive UFC numbered pay-per-view events have been held in the same city outside of Las Vegas – yet another historic first for Abu Dhabi.

Having achieved a new benchmark in global sport safety with its pioneering ‘bubble’ concept at the inaugural UFC Fight Island in July, the Safe Zone will incorporate an arena, hotels, training facilities, as well as entertainment and dining establishments.

“UFC Fight Island proved to be a tremendous success and its rapid return is testament to the strength of our partnership with UFC, and the global confidence in Abu Dhabi's ability and preparedness to host major international events with the highest standards of health and safety,” said His Excellency Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman of DCT Abu Dhabi. “The Return to UFC Fight Island concept underlines both Abu Dhabi’s commitment to global sporting and tourism events as well as the collaborative approach taken by various government departments to ensure the emirate is ready to safely welcome back visitors, business and more major international events across multiple sectors.”

Abu Dhabi has led the development of the ‘Go Safe Certification’, which enforces global safety and hygiene standards across the emirate’s hotels, attractions, malls, hospitality facilities and public venues, and supports the emirate’s wider efforts to combat the spread of Covid -19, which include widespread testing, city-wide sanitation, social distancing, and enhanced healthcare services.

Yas Theme Parks and attractions, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi and CLYMB Abu Dhabi are the latest to be awarded the ‘Go Safe’ certification DCT Abu Dhabi, which aims to certify the entire emirate before the month is over.

Last month, DCT Abu Dhabi launched its newest intangible heritage campaign, ‘Universe of Crafts’, inviting the Emirati community and UAE residents to take part by submitting their heirloom handicraft items for display in an exhibition at Al Hosn’s House of Artisans.

‘Universe of Crafts’ held an open call for items last month, with a focus on the six categories of adornment and perfumery, culinary innovation, sea crafts, pottery, archival images, and weaving, or Al Sadu, a heritage element that has been inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

The campaign aims to gather a wide selection of artefacts and personal objects, which together will provide an insight into the lives and work of Emirati artisans and their crafts.

“A large part of DCT Abu Dhabi’s cultural strategy revolves around the preservation and promotion of the emirate’s intangible heritage, safeguarding traditional Emirati practices and handicrafts and fostering pride among the younger generations by demonstrating the continued relevance of our past to contemporary life,” said Salama Al Shamsi, Director of Qasr Al Hosn. “Universe of Crafts is the latest DCT Abu Dhabi initiative to focus on raising awareness of the UAE’s unique cultural heritage. So much of our rich legacy of traditional crafts and practices is sitting in homes across the country; cherished objects linked to family or personal histories that, through their stories, may be able to shed new light on our collective past. By engaging and involving the community directly, we hope to gather a set of artefacts that tell a deeper, more personal story of traditional Emirati heritage, resulting in an exhibition different to anything House of Artisans has done before.”

Located in Al Hosn site, alongside Qasr Al Hosn and the Cultural Foundation, the House of Artisans plays a pioneering role in the protection and preservation of traditional heritage and craftsmanship, and actively provides support to local artisans carrying on these traditions. The House of Artisans seeks to increase general awareness of heritage arts and practices and encourages the learning of skills related to these crafts through a year-round schedule of workshops and courses, allowing knowledge and techniques to be safeguarded for future generations.

Meanwhile, on the wildlife conservation front, the upcoming Al Qana development in Abu Dhabi is all set to welcome the region’s largest rehabilitation centre of its kind. The National Aquarium, projected to be the largest aquarium in the Middle East, will open before the end of the year as one of the largest conservation facilities in the region, focused on biodiversity and the natural local heritage.

Following the recently announced partnership between the Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi (EAD) and The National Aquarium will be staffed by a team of international veterinary and aquarist experts from 15 countries and will be home to a seven-metre python, the biggest reptile in the region. This facility is located at Al Qana, Abu Dhabi’s upcoming social dining and entertainment waterfront destination.

Also, on the meetings and conferences front, Etihad Airways, the national airline of the UAE, has announced an agreement with MCI Middle East, one of the largest professional conference organisers operating globally, to be the official travel and destination management partner of its key events in 2021 and 2022.

This new agreement allows exhibitors, speakers and visitors to purchase Etihad’s full conference package at a special rate, which includes event entrance, flights, hotel accommodation and ground transportation.

Hareb Al Muhairy, Senior Vice President Destination and Leisure Management, Etihad Aviation Group, said: “2020 has been a year like no other, and many conferences and events have turned to virtual formats over in-person conferences. We’re looking forward to working with MCI over the next two years as COVID-19 restrictions are eased and we begin to see events taking place on the ground in our home, Abu Dhabi.

“Abu Dhabi has rapidly grown its reputation as a world-class leader in the MICE industry and we will ensure a warm welcome, enriching experience and the very best of Arabian hospitality to all MCI visitors and participants as events resume.”