The Cruise Web in Abu Dhabi
By Rosalind Smith, Business Development Manager.
The Cruise Web, Inc.
Having recently returned from the United Arab Emirates, I have successfully re-entered the Eastern Time zone and no longer wake in the middle of the night or wonder why I’m exhausted at 3pm. The entire experience was extremely rewarding – the Emiratis are beautiful people that warmly welcomed us to their nation as well as their culture.
The primary reason for the trip was to participate in the 2011 Gulf Incentive Business Travel & Meetings Exhibition. This event enjoyed record success bringing together industry leaders from around the world to see and experience Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE, and solidify the Gulf region’s place in incentive and business travel. After three full days of educational sessions, exhibitions and networking, the global connections are projected to prove invaluable. We convened to discuss the value of meetings and events to the profitability of businesses worldwide. As the incentive and meetings industry continues to recover globally, meeting and event planners are looking for new and innovative ways to keep the global economy moving forward, one event at a time. That being said, UAE is projecting an economic growth of 4% in 2011 with the hospitality industry leading their growth.
While the first three days were all business, my last two days were spent exploring before the long journey home. My day began each morning with the Khaleej Times over a cup of tea before breakfast. Front and center was the daily update of the ICC Cricket World Cup. Newsworthy, was the story of an Emirati woman who made her successful journey to the South Pole in 20 days. And in Dubai, the UAE Olympic soccer teams are preparing for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. However, the talk of the town locally was the newly opened IKEA.
Many think the national sport is auto racing. However, I believe otherwise as there is a month long festival in honor of shopping! Unfortunately, I arrived a few weeks too late. Many of their shopping centers are an attraction in and of themselves! Abu Dhabi hosts the beachfront Abu Dhabi Mall, The Marina Mall and countless markets and Souks.
Although I joke about shopping being their national sport, it’s clear that auto racing is also huge. Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island is home to the brand new Ferrari World, an amusement park for the most discerning motor enthusiasts. The Yas Marina Circuit hosts the Formula 1™ Motorsports Track. Unfortunately, I did not have time to take a tour of the track or pit lane because I was busy “driving” a simulated course in Ferrari World (meanwhile, my fellow Cruise Web managers were in West Virginia kart racing in the most extreme of conditions). Currently, preparations were under way for three of six rounds of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge (the last three rounds will take place at the Dubai Autodrome), the upcoming Pro Drag Racing Series in late April and the Formula 1™ Grand Prix in November.
After I had my fill of motor sports, I made my way to the Abu Dhabi Corniche (in one of the city’s new silver taxis) which hosts beautiful parks as well as the city’s newest public beach suitable for swimming. The landscaped gardens are artfully sculptured. Finally, no business trip is complete without a visit to the cruise ship terminal. Cruise ships from around the world dock in Port Zayed near the last “must-see” on my list, one of the world’s most lavish (and most expensive) hotels ever built, Emirates Palace. Located just 15 minutes by taxi from the pier, the Emirates Palace has become a destination in and of itself with the meticulously landscaped grounds leading the way to this grand structure adorned with crystal, marble and gold under a breathtaking lobby dome.
The United Arab Emirates is a very quickly developing destination. It’s unique culture and traditions will leave you enriched and eager to further explore the world.