Mubarak Al Shamisi, Director of Abu Dhabi Convention & Exhibition Bureau, Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi

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“In 2019, Abu Dhabi hosted the highest number of events in the MENA region –International Meetings Statistics Report 2022″

ES. Please tell us a bit about your professional journey & major milestones achieved in your career up until now.

Mubarak Al Shamisi. I have spent more than 18 years’ working in the tourism industry. I started my career in 2004 as an executive in the marketing department of the former Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority. Since then, I have had the opportunity to gain experience across a number of tourism departments, including events and overseas offices. Previously, I served as the Country Manager for the Authority’s GCC market in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Since 2014, I have focussed on expanding the presence and influence of the Abu Dhabi Exhibition & Convention Bureau (ADCEB) in the business events sector in my capacity as Director. In 2018, I was elected as a chairperson of the Middle East Chapter of the International Congress and Conventions Association (ICCA). Along with my team, I have worked on building strategic partnerships with several corporates, business groups and associations who are increasingly relying on us to host their events in Abu Dhabi. To ensure Abu Dhabi continues to be seen an attractive business events destination, we have introduced incredible initiatives and incentives that provide event organisers and planners with invaluable financial and non-financial support. It is an honour to share Abu Dhabi with the world and to showcase the great potential of our destination.

ES. In what ways has the Abu Dhabi Convention & Exhibition Bureau succeeded in its mission to establish the emirate as a leading global business event destination?

Mubarak Al Shamisi. Since the inception of the Abu Dhabi Convention & Exhibition Bureau in 2013, we have seen tremendous growth in Abu Dhabi’s profile as a leading destination for business events. We have expanded our Mubarak Al Shamisi. Since the inception of the Abu Dhabi Convention & Exhibition Bureau in 2013, we have seen tremendous growth in Abu Dhabi’s profile as a leading destination for business events. We have expanded our presence in several markets, provided world-class support to stakeholders, led and supported successful bids for globally and regionally significant events, and grew Abu Dhabi’s MICE delegates by more than 50 percent since 2013 (according to ICCA Ranking).

In 2019, Abu Dhabi hosted the highest number of events in the MENA region according to the 2020 Union of International Associations (UIA) – International Meetings Statistics Report. This, among many other accomplishments for Abu Dhabi, is a testament to ADCEB’s success in creating and championing a highly competitive destination for meetings and other business events.

ES. As Abu Dhabi continues to see a gradual rise in the number of corporate travellers in the emirate, how are you strengthening your MICE profile further on the global stage? Please share with us some of the key events hosted by Abu Dhabi in the recent past.

Mubarak Al Shamisi. In recent years, we have secured the hosting rights for globally significant events such as the Special Olympics 2019, World Energy Congress 2019, World Urban Forum 2022, and World Volunteer Conference 2022. This year, the Abu Dhabi Calendar was incredibly busy as we also saw the launch of new exhibitions such as the World Utilities Congress, Middle East Manufacturing & Technology Expo, Middle East Design & Build Week, Global Media Congress, and the Electric Vehicle Innovation Summit, which further underscores Abu Dhabi’s status. These new events are key milestones in Abu Dhabi’s ever-expanding business events calendar and we are expecting to welcome even more next year.

Our success lies in a continuous drive for building strong strategic partnerships that enable event organisers and planners to deliver world-class experiences to their delegates in line with their goals. At ADCEB, we also lead or support the bidding process for suitable conventions, as well as inspiring event organisers to launch their first-ever event or to geo-clone their flagship events in Abu Dhabi.

ES. How well Abu Dhabi is connected with the rest of the world?ES. How well Abu Dhabi is connected with the rest of the world?

Mubarak Al Shamisi. Situated at the crossroads of the East and the West, Abu Dhabi is easily accessible to visitors. More than two-thirds of major global cities are within a six-hour flight of Abu Dhabi. In the first half of 2022, nearly 6.3 million passengers passed through Abu Dhabi, connecting them to 101 passenger destinations via 23 airlines, which perfectly illustrates Abu Dhabi’s strong global connectivity.1 Recently, ADCEB formed a strategic partnership with Etihad Airways, to further bolster support for MICE travel groups travelling to Abu Dhabi. Through this collaboration, ADCEB can offer eligible ‘Advantage Abu Dhabi’ applicants additional flight benefits and perks such as group booking discounts, complimentary flights for large MICE travel group bookings on direct flights, and special flight rates for site/destination inspection trips to Abu Dhabi for clients who host their business events and incentive groups in the UAE capital.

ES. What is the state of Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure for hosting business events? In what ways has the government supported MICE infrastructure with its policies?ES. What is the state of Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure for hosting business events? In what ways has the government supported MICE infrastructure with its policies?

Mubarak Al Shamisi. Abu Dhabi’s strong MICE capabilities are demonstrated by its world-class infrastructure, iconic hotels and resorts, state-of-the-art event venues and an unrivalled leisure offering. Abu Dhabi offers a broad mix of hotels that cater to a wide range of budgets and expectations, ranging from pocket-friendly city hotels to luxurious beach resorts. Our incredible inventory of event venues includes the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the largest exhibition space in the MENA region that spans a total area of 153,678 square metres. The Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre is expecting to see a 16 percent rise in the number of exhibitions organised and hosted there by the end of 2022 compared to the same period in 2019, marking a strong post-pandemic recovery. In addition, Abu Dhabi’s growing knowledge and innovation ecosystem across the public and private sectors adds further value for international associations and event organisers looking to host their meetings and conferences in a highly competitive MICE destination.

We encourage those who visit Abu Dhabi for attending business events to also explore the diverse range of exciting, inspiring and restorative experiences found in Abu Dhabi. From unwinding on Abu Dhabi’s pristine beaches to taking in its vibrant contemporary art and cultural scene, featuring landmark attractions such as Louvre Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi offers something for everyone to discover at their own pace.

ES. How do you see India as a source market for Abu Dhabi? Also, please tell us about Abu Dhabi’s unique portfolio of nature-adventure assets which allows it to compete with top worldwide destinations?

Mubarak Al Shamisi. India is consistently one of the largest source markets for MICE travel in Abu Dhabi, not just for leisure tourism. Earlier this year, we welcomed more than 1,400 delegates from Amway India – proof of Abu Dhabi’s destination attractiveness to Indian corporates looking to host their meetings and incentive groups overseas.

We continue to provide unmatched support to our valued stakeholders, engage our targeted corporates and leading MICE agencies, and introduce initiatives such as our enhanced Advantage Abu Dhabi Meetings & Incentives programme and our new MICE Agency Reward scheme, that collectively enable us to differentiative ourselves from other destinations in the region. In addition, in Abu Dhabi there is something for everyone to enjoy, at their own pace, whether it’s the tranquillity of Al Ain or the thrills of Yas Island. With the growing appetite for outbound business travel in India, we look forward to welcoming more business travellers from this country, who will be spoilt for choice in our destination.

ES. What is your plan to boost Business Tourism in 2023?ES. What is your plan to boost Business Tourism in 2023?

Mubarak Al Shamisi. Over the years, ADCEB has accelerated its financial and non-financial support towards strategic business events, which includes the launch of Advantage Abu Dhabi 2.0, an enhanced programme that offers event organisers an array of support throughout the event planning cycle – including financial assistance and destination-driven value-adds. Through such initiatives, we are expecting to attract more business events and business travellers in 2023 and beyond.

ES. On a personal note, we are curious to know what keeps you busy when you are away from work? Please tell us about your hobbies and other activities that you love to do at home.

Mubarak Al Shamisi. Outside of work, my family keeps me busy! And with Abu Dhabi’s incredible nature-adventure landscape, I spend a lot of time enriching their love for outdoor activities such as falconry, camping and desert dune bashing.
ES. If you would like to share a message and one key piece of advice to the industry, what would that be?

Mubarak Al Shamisi. A lot has changed over the last two years, including business travel trends and event formats, yet the principles and objectives of meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions have all stayed the same. So, if I had to share only one piece of advice, it is to continue embracing excellence, focussing more on collaborations and exploring new ideas. Together, we can continue to highlight the importance of business events and their impact on knowledge sharing, innovation and economic growth. It is truly an honour to be part of the business events industry, and my team and I remain committed to its growth.