We’re here to support the industry, says DCT Abu Dhabi chief

Published: 30 July 2020 - 4:15 a.m.

In light of the UAE’s Capital launching its Rediscover Abu Dhabi campaign, the focus is firmly on attracting people from within the UAE to visit and stay in the emirate.

International borders are not yet open for international tourists and the border with Dubai can only be crossed if people prove they don’t have coronavirus.

Many expat residents in the capital are also unable or unwilling to travel home or on holiday this summer, so, with a captive audience in what is a typically a low period for the hospitality industry, the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT) has rolled out a number of interwoven campaigns to tempt people back out of their homes and into the city’s mall, restaurants, hotels and attractions.

Speaking to Hotelier Middle East about the emirate’s drive for business is Ali Al Shaiba, executive director, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi. He says things are on the up, despite the tough start to the year.

“Summer is usually a low period for us, as we know, but we have always wanted to target the domestic market over the summer months, internationally not so much. Today we can target the domestic market by offering staycations for UAE residents, not just those in Abu Dhabi.”

After months of being told to stay indoors to keep each other safe, it might be understandable that people are hesitant to leave their homes. They shouldn’t be, says Al Shaiba, especially as the emirates has introduced its Go Safe programme that verifies venues are compliant with the highest safety measures.

He explains: “People are changing their behaviour and we have noticed this and saw that their priority is health and safety. That’s why we have launched the Go Safe certification in Abu Dhabi. We have 100 percent of our hotels certified, almost all of the malls and theme parks have it, too.

“It is safe to go out in Abu Dhabi. Not only does Go Safe mean we have verified this, it means we are testing all of the staff in each place every ten days to make sure no-one has the virus. This is setting a new global standard for health and safety.”

In July Abu Dhabi played host to the UFC’s Fight Island event, which saw thousands of people in a safe zone on Yas Island to put the event on. They stayed in the hotels on the island and put the event on in the Flash Arena. Al Shaiba said before the event that is was a message to the world that even in the most trying of circumstances, Abu Dhabi can put huge event on.

And now it’s over he says: “We achieved everything we wanted to. People around the world can see that it went perfectly. We can now talk to anyone who wants to put events on and they know we can do it. It also strengthens our position as a global hub for martial arts.

“We have had positive feedback from the UFC’s president, fighters and everyone involved and it means we can start the conversation about bringing spectators back.”

Having crowds at major sporting events, especially with one more UFC event pencilled in for the end of the year thanks to an ongoing five-year deal with the brand, and the final Formula One race usually taking place at Yas Marina Circuit, is something people want to hear about.

“We’re working with the government to see how we can get spectators back,” Al Shaiba says. “There’s nothing confirmed but the talks are happening about how the practicalities. However keeping the residents of Abu Dhabi safe is our number one priority.”

When asked about international tourists and the Dubai-Abu Dhabi border opening, Al Shaiba says the same things are what matters. “We are having discussions about it, but there’s nothing confirmed. Everything we do is to make sure the people of Abu Dhabi are safe.”

He finishes with a message of support for the hospitality industry in Abu Dhabi. “Along with the Department of Economic Development [DED] we have put measures in place earlier in the year, announcing reduction of certain taxes and we are working with the DED to be able to announce the next set of measures soon,” he says.

“We want to help the industry, things like Rediscover Abu Dhabi are done to boost occupancy in hotels, footfall into malls and into restaurants, theme parks and more. We have already seen a three percent increase year on year in July and malls have triple the business as previous years. We will continue to help the industry as much as we can.”

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